Californians can start shopping for health insurance coverage for 2021 starting Sunday

Covered California will launch open enrollment for 2021 health insurance coverage starting Sunday and will

Covered California will launch open enrollment for 2021 health insurance coverage starting Sunday and will continue accepting applications for coverage until Jan. 31.

“Open enrollment is the one and only time of the year where all eligible Californians can sign up for quality health care coverage without needing to meet any special circumstances,” said Peter V. Lee, the executive director of Covered California.

Earlier this year, Lee announced that premiums statewide would remain relatively unchanged with an average increase of 0.5%, for health care policies. In the Sacramento region, premiums will go up about 2.3% on average.

In a news release issued by the exchange on Friday, Lee stressed that many Californians will be eligible for financial assistance to help bring the cost of coverage within reach.

This year, the state of California joined the federal government in offering financial assistance, Lee said, and that greatly expanded eligibility for help offsetting costs. Of the record 1.5 million Californians now enrolled through the state exchange, he said, nearly 90% have gotten some level of financial assistance.

Almost 600,000 California residents are benefiting from the state subsidies because state legislators attempted to make health insurance more affordable for even middle-class residents.

“Affordability is the number one issue for consumers, and the financial help available through Covered California helps bring the cost of coverage within reach,” Lee said.

The state health insurance exchange has had a particularly busy year in 2020 as it has offered special enrollment periods for wildfire victims as well as for those who lost work as a result of business closures during California’s coronavirus lockdown.

Even now, consumers who lose their jobs or other sources of income may qualify this year to sign up for a policy, regardless of whether they had insurance coverage.

State law required that, starting in 2020, all Californians must be insured, and those who are not face a penalty on their state taxes. Known as an individual mandate, that penalty could come to as much as $2,250 for a family of four.

Help is available at www.coveredca.com or at (800) 300-1506. To be eligible for coverage starting Jan. 1, consumers must enroll by Dec. 15

Consumers will begin seeing online and television advertising from Covered California promoting health insurance coverage starting Nov. 9. Lee has said in the past that the agency spends millions of dollars on marketing coverage in order to assure a healthy pool of insured people who will help to keep rates down for all.

The sickest people will sign up right away, Lee has said, but healthy people need to understand that they are one mishap away from incurring an expense that could wreck them financially for years to come.

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