Santa Claritans who purchase from the federal health insurance marketplace have only weeks to lock in a plan. Those who miss the upcoming deadline may not have coverage come January 2019.
For those seeking to enroll in a plan, local advocates say the time is now if residents want coverage by New Year’s Day. Enrollment started on Nov. 1 and will close on Dec. 15 in most of the United States, but California’s open enrollment period won’t end until Jan. 15.
“With deadlines approaching, residents should be looking into all their options now,” said Lorie Cortez-Arjon, a Saugus-based broker with product expertise in health and dental insurance.
During the first two weeks of open enrollment, the number of enrollments was down by an estimated 20 percent when compared to last year, according to data released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
President Trump signed a tax bill in late 2017 that repeals the Affordable Care Act’s tax penalty by wiping out the fines for not having health insurance. Though it’s not clear whether this has directly impacted the reduction in enrollments, some government studies estimate more people will drop their health insurance next year.
The Congressional Budget Office, in a November 2017 report, estimated that “the number of people with health insurance would decrease by 4 million in 2019 and 13 million in 2027.”
Covered California projected an enrollment drop in 2019 ranging from 7 to 18 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,” Peter Lee, Covered California executive director, said in a statement.
Cortez-Arjon said she thinks some may find the removal of the penalty a reason to hold off on shopping for coverage, but she recommends avoiding that.
“It’s important to have health insurance and see a doctor yearly,” she said. “We all have car insurance or cell phone coverage. It’s even more important to have health coverage because you never know when life can surprise you.”
For those still considering skipping coverage, Cortez-Arjon recommends checking if one could lower premiums or cut from personal expenses to help save for unexpected medical costs.
Lee added that those taking the step to find a health plan should “look at their options and find out if they are eligible for financial assistance to help bring that coverage within reach.”
One way to start is by exploring options and financial qualifications and by seeking assistance from local, certified insurance agents through online enrollment sites such as the Covered California shop and compare, and the find help tools at coveredca.com or by calling 800-300-1506.