Commentary

By Dianne Feinstein

Originially published in Medium.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, federal assistance is available to help with the cost of health coverage. And now’s the time to act if you haven’t already. Open enrollment in California ends Tuesday, January 15.

Whether you’re uninsured or want to explore a new plan, it’s well worth your time to visit www.coveredca.com to see what plans are available in your area and what tax credits you might qualify for to help cover the cost.

Despite all the turmoil over health care, California’s health insurance market is by all measurements a success.

Since 2013, more than 3.7 million previously uninsured Californians have attained health coverage.

The uninsured rate in California has dropped more than 10 percent, reaching a record low of 6.8% in 2017, compared to a national rate of 16 percent uninsured.

Today, 18 million people are covered through their employer, 13 million by Medicaid, 6 million by Medicare, 1.4 million through Covered California and 800,000 through individual market plans not sold through Covered California.

And today, nearly all Californians can choose between multiple competing options when purchasing coverage. Covered California has 11 health insurance companies providing a variety of options for both new and returning customers.

On average, shoppers who have gone to Covered California have bought health care plans that cost only $5 per day, with many paying even less. Thanks to premium subsidies that have benefited more than 90 percent of customers, a third of Covered California shoppers can now buy a Silver plan for $50 per month, less than the cost of a cell phone bill.

Californians who already had health insurance last year may find that they can get a better deal if they shop around and compare plans this year. And if you don’t yet have health insurance, it’s certainly worthwhile to check your options. More than 80 percent of eligible uninsured Californians don’t know they could receive help paying for health insurance.

I believe every American has a right to affordable health care and that’s why it’s vital that we encourage our friends and family to sign up during open enrollment.

Last year the Trump administration made it clear that their goal is to undermine the Affordable Care Act. By promoting plans that don’t cover pre-existing conditions, refusing to defend the law in court and gutting the mandate to buy health insurance, the administration is making it harder to get high quality, affordable health care. We can’t allow the Trump administration’s efforts to prevent Californians from getting covered.

Covered California has been leading the way with their outreach efforts. The organization kicked off open enrollment this year with a 10-day, 23-stop bus tour with the slogan, “Life can change in an instant.” The message is a poignant one. All of us will need health care at some point in our lives and none of us know for sure when that might be.

Through Covered California’s outreach efforts, more than 1.4 million Californians had signed up for coverage as of the end of 2018, with 17 percent being either new customers or customers who chose a new plan.

Even though California’s health insurance marketplace is a success, there’s still work to be done. I’ll continue to fight to improve the affordability of and access to quality health care.

For now, though, let’s make sure every neighbor, family member and friend knows they have coverage options available today. There are 1.1 million uninsured Californians who are eligible to enroll through Covered California, and most don’t know they may be able to receive assistance.

Being covered by insurance could mean the difference between getting diabetes under control or ending up in the emergency room, or skipping a doctor’s appointment that could detect cancer early enough to treat it.

This isn’t about just quality of life for Californians, it’s often about the difference between life and death. Let’s all do our part and get California covered.