Key open enrollment deadline quick approaching

With more than 90,500 new consumers selecting a health plan through Nov. 30, Covered California officials agree that open enrollment is off to a solid start as the key open enrollment deadline of Dec. 15 approaches.

According to Covered California, the number of plan selections is well ahead of the pace set in 2016, which marked the last time Covered California delayed its marketing push until after Election Day, when 80,000 consumers signed up through November.

“Covered California is off to a solid start, signing up tens of thousands of people who understand the importance of having quality health care coverage, but it’s just a start,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California.

Covered California’s enrollment period began on Oct. 15 and continues through Jan. 15, 2019, thanks to Assembly Bill 156, which was signed last year by the governor and gives Californians three months to sign up for health coverage, unlike the federal open-enrollment period, which ends Dec. 15.

“For most of the nation, the open-enrollment period is done in two weeks, but that’s not the case in California,” Lee said.

Californians would continue to have a three-month enrollment period. However, consumers who want their coverage to begin on Jan. 1 need to sign up by Dec. 15.

“We know that deadlines matter to people, and for Covered California the two key deadlines coming up are Dec. 15 and Jan. 15,” Lee said. “Sign up by Dec. 15 and you can be covered on New Year’s Day, and if you miss that deadline you will still have until Jan. 15 to sign up for quality health care coverage that meets the needs of you and your family.”

Peter V. Lee, Covered California executive director, during the statewide bus tour on Nov. 15 in Fresno to encourage consumers to sign up for health care coverage during the current open-enrollment period. María G. Ortiz-Briones

According to Covered California, while the number of plan selections is ahead of the pace set during the last election year, it is slightly behind the pace set last year when 102,000 consumers signed up through November.

Lee says that while it is too early to draw conclusions, there could be several possible explanations for why enrollment is behind last year’s pace including delaying marketing until after the election, less media attention on open enrollment, and the removal of the individual mandate penalty.

Covered California projected the removal of the mandate penalty would result in a drop in enrollment in 2019 that ranges from 7 to 18 percent, with a base projection of 12 percent.

“While we know that the financial help offered through Covered California is the big motivator for many people to enroll, with the penalty removed we do expect some consumers to roll the dice and go without health coverage,” Lee said. “We also know that life can change in an instant, and it’s important to have health coverage when it does.”

According to Covered California officials, roughly 1.1 million uninsured Californians are currently eligible for coverage in Covered California or Medi-Cal. That includes 30,685 in the Fresno metro area.

A new research shows that 82 percent of uninsured consumers surveyed, who are eligible for financial assistance, do not know that they qualify.

Those interested in learning more about their coverage options should go to, where they can get help to enroll. They can explore their options and find out if they qualify for financial help by using the Shop and Compare Tool. They can also get free and confidential enrollment assistance by visiting and searching among 700 storefronts statewide or 16,000 certified enrollers who can assist consumers in understanding their choices and enrolling, including individuals who can assist in other languages.

Consumers can reach the Covered California service center by calling (800) 300-1506.

María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud