Sheila Head has been an entrepreneur in Oakland, California for 36 years.
“I love what I do,” said the hairstylist and owner of Head Designs.
But while her business was relatively healthy, Head’s body was not.
“I only would go (to the doctor) when I absolutely had to go,” Head said. “Then Covered California came around, and I jumped on it. My life seemed to blossom.”
Open enrollment is underway for consumers to sign up for health insurance through Covered California. A key deadline is Dec. 15 for consumers who want their coverage to begin on Jan. 1. Open enrollment runs through Jan. 31.
A free health screening revealed that Head was prediabetic. “Oh, no. I don’t want to have anything to do with diabetes,” said Head. Diabetes is one of the diseases that disproportionately affects African Americans. The U.S. Office of Minority Health estimates that African Americans are 80 percent more likely than other races to get diabetes and are twice as likely to die from the disease. Sheila Head
This year’s open-enrollment period features some of the biggest changes since Covered California first began offering health coverage in 2014. First, two new state initiatives — the state subsidy program and the restoration of the individual mandate — were key elements in Covered California’s record-low 0.8 percent rate increase for the upcoming year.
While preliminary, early data shows that 85 percent of eligible low-income Californians are qualifying for a state subsidy on top of their federal tax credits. About 50 percent of middle-class Californians across the state with household incomes between 400 and 600 percent of the federal poverty level are finding out they are eligible to receive a state subsidy starting in January.
VIDEO: Covered California’s new “Real Stories” video on diabetes prevention
“We have heard from people across the state who will be saving hundreds of dollars a month because California is putting its people first,” Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said. “Whether you never thought you could get financial help, or if you have checked before, you need to check again because there is new money available that may dramatically reduce the cost of your coverage.”
The new state subsidies are already helping consumers who have selected a plan for 2020. Eligible low-income consumers who qualify for a subsidy are receiving an average of $19 per month, per household, while eligible middle-income Californians who receive a subsidy are getting an average of more than $500 per month, per household.
Enrolling for coverage now is critical because California restored the penalty that was part of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from 2014 to 2018. That means most consumers who do not get covered could face a fine when they file their 2020 taxes in the spring of 2021. A family of four would pay a penalty of at least $2,000, and potentially more, for not having health insurance throughout 2020.
The penalty aside, Lee and Head focused on the positive aspects of being insured, including free health screenings, an annual checkup and peace of mind knowing that if a health crisis occurs, you won’t go bankrupt when bills pile up.
Free preventative health care services offered by all Covered California health plans helped Head make wise choices to stay healthy, and she is now an active participant in an innovative diabetes-prevention program offered through her health provider, Blue Shield.
“Covered California gave me, like, my own heath care team,” Head said. “I hope everyone will have the opportunity to feel like I’ve been feeling.”
Covered California Open Enrollment Information
Those interested in learning more about their coverage options can:
Get free and confidential in-person assistance, in a variety of languages, from a certified enroller.
·Have a certified enroller call them and help them for free.
Call Covered California’s Service Center at (800) 300-1506.
Open enrollment runs through Jan. 31, 2020. Enroll by Dec.15 to have coverage start on Jan. 1.