Covered California: Special Enrollment Period thru 4/30 for those who didn't know about mandate penalty or expanded subsidies

I already called attention to this in my last post, but it's so long & filled with data wonk stuff that I'm reposting a separate entry to specifically highlight the SEP specifically:

  • Covered California is announcing a special-enrollment period through April 30 to address concerns that many Californians remain unaware of the new financial help or the new state penalty.

Hmmmm....the Special Enrollment Period is interesting. HealthCare.Gov and some state exchanges did something like this in spring 2015 (the first year people had to actually pay the mandate penalty) and managed to get around 210,000 more enrollees nationally. Of course, the penalty for 2014 was only $95 or 1% of income at the time...now it's up to $695/person or 2.5% of household income, so it's a bigger deal.

New Special-Enrollment Period Announced

Covered California also announced that effective Feb. 18 it will establish a special-enrollment period for those who were unaware of the state penalty or the new financial help. Consumers who fall into those categories, or who are currently insured off exchange (directly through an insurer) and want to switch to Covered California to benefit from the new state subsidies, will have through April 30 to sign up for coverage.

Covered California made the decision after gathering information throughout open enrollment and after the close of enrollment. In December, Covered California surveyed the public and found a significant percentage of the uninsured were unaware of the new financial help or penalty. Based on those findings, Covered California began looking at whether a special-enrollment period would be warranted. In the first week of February, Covered California surveyed 10,000 of its Certified Insurance Agents and found that there is still a substantial lack of awareness, with 41 percent saying only some or none of their consumers knew about the penalty, and 80 percent saying the penalty is motivating or extremely motivating for their consumers.

“I encourage everyone who does not have qualifying health insurance to take advantage of the special enrollment period and secure coverage now. I like signing tax refund checks, not assessing penalties,” said State Controller and FTB Chair Betty T. Yee.

...Covered California will be launching a new campaign to publicize the special-enrollment period, starting this month with social media messaging and consumer emails. Television ads in English and Spanish will start on March 9. Also starting that day will be radio and digital ads in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Vietnamese. This marks Covered California’s first use of television ads to promote a special-enrollment period.

“We know that there are hundreds of thousands of people, both low income and middle income, who are insured off exchange but could be saving significant amounts of money if they switch to Covered California to benefit from federal financial help or new state subsidies, or both,” Lee said. “Covered California is working with everyone it can to put consumers first by maximizing the amount of time that people can get covered and minimizing the number of people who are subject to a penalty.”

During this special-enrollment period, consumers will be able to sign up at any point and will be covered on the first of the following month.

Anyone who enrolls between 2/18 - 2/29 will have coverage starting March 1st; anyone enrolling between 3/01 - 3/31 will have coverage starting April 1st.