Special enrollment period allows more consumers to obtain Covered California health coverage

aibarra@mercedsunstar.comJune 5, 2014 

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Covered California enrollment counselor and Healthy House administrative assistant Nai Saechao (RIGHT) helps Sheila Herb, of Merced, with her application for health insurance at Healthy House in Merced Friday. (4-11-14)

BEA AHBECK CASSON — bahback@mercedsunstar.com Buy Photo

When Covered California’s first open enrollment period ended on April 15, thousands of people were still left uninsured. Most will not able to purchase a health care plan until the second cycle of open enrollment comes around in November, but some may be able to obtain coverage before then.

According to Covered California officials, consumers are eligible to participate in a “special enrollment period,” if they’ve gone through a qualifying life event, such as marriage, divorce, loss or change of job, the birth of a child and becoming a citizen.

Roy Kennedy, a Covered California spokesman, said recent college graduates who move back to California after attending school out of state may also qualify for special enrollment. These graduates may gain access to health plans that were not available where they previously lived.

In most cases, consumers have 60 days from the date of the life event to enroll in a health care plan.

People who have health coverage but have gone through a qualifying life event should report any change to the marketplace, as they may be eligible to seek another, more suitable health care plan, officials said.

Covered California also announced a special enrollment period for Californians covered through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, better known as COBRA.

COBRA coverage allows people who have lost their employer-sponsored health care coverage to keep their plan, as long as they pay the full cost plus a 2 percent administrative fee. An individual who loses his or her job and cannot afford COBRA may find more affordable options on the marketplace, officials said.

“COBRA will continue to be a cornerstone of coverage for workers after a job loss, but it’s important for employees to know that there are options in the marketplace that could save them money,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee in a news release.

Officials estimate that 300,000 Californians are covered through COBRA. The special enrollment period for COBRA beneficiaries ends July 15.

Consumers who voluntarily end their insurance coverage do not qualify for the special enrollment period, which will be open until November. However, those eligible for Medi-Cal can enroll year round.

Those who qualify can apply at the Covered California website and click on the “Special Enrollment” button. People can also contact a certified enrollment counselor or call Covered California at (800) 300-1506.

Sun-Star staff writer Ana B. Ibarra can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or aibarra@mercedsunstar.com.

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