Covered California Increases Marketing/Outreach Investments during #COVID19 Pandemic

  • Covered California approved a $440 million budget for fiscal year 2020-21 that includes a $30 million increase in marketing investments and $13 million for additional customer service upgrades to meet the needs of consumers. 
  • The increased spending, which represents a 16 percent increase over last year’s budget, comes amid continued uncertainty in the lives and livelihoods of Californians as public health officials fight against the spread of COVID-19.
  • The budget also calls for greater investments in information technology to improve efficiency, as well as increased efforts to help inform state and national policy on health care-related issues.
  • More than 209,000 people have signed up for coverage through Covered California since the exchange announced a special-enrollment period, which runs through the end of July, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California announced that it will submit its budget and annual report to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature on Thursday. The $440 million budget for fiscal year (FY) 2020-21 highlights the agency’s ongoing stability and increases its significant investments in marketing and outreach to connect with consumers during the current recession and ongoing pandemic.

“These are unprecedented times, and Covered California is stepping up to answer the call for the millions of Californians who have been affected by this recession and pandemic,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California. “We are increasing our investments in marketing and outreach to make sure people know that Covered California is here for them if they need health insurance.”

Covered California’s budget for FY 2020-21 contains no state funding because the agency’s revenue comes exclusively from a small monthly surcharge that health insurance companies pay for each enrollee. The budget calls for spending $440 million in FY 2020-21, which represents a 16 percent increase over last year, and includes a continued commitment to reaching consumers, with more than $157 million devoted to marketing, sales and outreach.

During the pandemic, California’s unemployment rate jumped to a record 16.4 percent in April 2020. The University of California, Berkeley Labor Center also estimated that 2.6 million people and their dependents also lost the health care coverage that came with those jobs.

“California is committed to helping people get access to the health care they need, and Covered California looks forward to building on the state’s policies to make a difference in the lives of Californians who need coverage,” said Lee. “We want everyone to know that they have a path to coverage, whether it is through Covered California or Medi-Cal. Investing more in getting our message out there is the right thing to do.”

Among the highlights of the FY 2020-21 budget:

  • Investments associated with Marketing, Sales and Outreach will total $157.6 million and account for 36 percent of total operating expenses. 
  • Spending on the Service Center and Consumer Experience will total $135.4 million and account for 31 percent of total expenses.
  • Spending for Technology (IT and Consumer Enrollment System) will total $61.4 million and represent 14 percent of total operating expenses.

Covered California’s annual report summarizes the agency’s accomplishments during the 2019-20 fiscal year, which included a record-low 0.8 percent rate change for the 2020 coverage year. The low rate change, which benefited consumers on- and off-exchange as well as those who were ineligible for federal financial help, was driven by California’s implementation of new state subsidies and a state-level individual mandate penalty. As a result, Covered California experienced a 41 percent increase in the number of consumers who signed up for coverage during the most recent open-enrollment period.

“California is building on and going beyond the Affordable Care Act, continuing state subsidies and providing help consumers when they need it most,” Lee said. “We want everyone to know that, whether they are uninsured or recently lost their health care coverage due to the pandemic and recession, that Covered California and Medi-Cal stand ready to help them access quality health care coverage.”

Special Enrollment Continues to Attract Thousands

Covered California is currently holding a special-enrollment period due to the COVID-19 national emergency. Anyone who meets Covered California’s eligibility requirements, which are similar to those in place during the annual open-enrollment period, can sign up for coverage through July 31.

The most recent data shows that 209,770 people signed up for health care coverage between March 20 and July 11, which is more than twice the number who signed up during the same time last year. 

Every year Covered California provides eligible consumers the opportunity to sign up for health care coverage, outside of the traditional open-enrollment period, if they experience a qualifying life event. These can include events like losing your health care coverage, moving, getting married or having a baby.  

Overall, 277,330 people signed up for coverage since Covered California ended its open-enrollment period on Jan. 31 through July 11, which is nearly twice as many as seen during the same time period as last year.  

People who sign up through Covered California will have access to private health insurance plans with monthly premiums that may be lowered due to federal and new state financial help that became effective in 2020. After selecting a plan, their coverage would begin on the first of the following month —meaning individuals losing job-based coverage would not face a gap in coverage.

In addition, consumers who sign up through CoveredCA.com may find out that they are eligible for no-cost or low-cost coverage through Medi-Cal, which they can enroll in online. Those eligible for Medi-Cal can have coverage that is immediately effective. 

New State Subsidies Help Californians Lower Their Health Care Costs

Californians who sign up for coverage may be able to benefit from a new state subsidy program that expanded the amount of financial help available to many people. The subsidies are already benefiting about 625,000 Covered California consumers. Roughly 576,000 lower-income consumers, who earn between 200 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), are receiving an average of $608 per month, per household in federal tax credits and new state subsidies (which averages $23 per household). The financial assistance lowers the average household monthly premium from $881 per month to $272, a decrease of 70 percent.

In addition, nearly 32,000 middle-income consumers have already qualified for new state subsidies, with average state subsidy to eligible households is $504 per month, lowering their monthly premium by nearly half.  

Many of those eligible for the new middle-income state subsidies are an estimated 280,000 Californians who are likely eligible for new state or existing federal subsidies but kept their “off-exchange” coverage. They are also eligible to switch to Covered California and benefit from the financial help.  During this special-enrollment period, Covered California, its health insurance companies and certified agents will be reaching out to these Californians to let them know how they can save money on their premiums — which will help them keep their coverage in challenging financial times.

Staying Safe While Getting Help Enrolling

Covered California is working with the more than 10,000 Certified Insurance Agents who help Californians sign up and understand their coverage options through phone-based service models.   

“We continue to be in a different world right now, but social distancing does not mean you cannot get personal help,” Lee said. “Health insurance is just a phone call away, and our agents and staff are ready to help people get the coverage they need.”

Consumers can easily find out if they are eligible for Medi-Cal or other forms of financial help and see which plans are available in their area by using the CoveredCA.Com Shop and Compare Tool and entering their ZIP code, household income and the ages of those who need coverage. 

Those interested in learning more about their coverage options can also:

  • Visit www.CoveredCA.com.
  • Get free and confidential assistance over the phone, in a variety of languages, from a certified enroller.
  • Have a certified enroller call them and help them for free.
  • Call Covered California at (800) 300-1506.