Extended Covered California deadline provides extra window to be insured | TheUnion.com

Extended Covered California deadline provides extra window to be insured

Gary Cooke
Special to The Union

Although the basic deadline for health insurance enrollment under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was March 31, opportunities to enroll are still available. That reminder was given by Debbie Wagner, RN, director of community outreach for Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.

Because of the surge of last-minute attempts to get signed up, Covered California (www.coveredca.com), the marketplace for Californians that provides information about health coverage and health insurance plans, extended the signup deadline to April 15 for people who tried to connect via the online site but couldn't because of technical difficulties.

Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California, said his organization is "committed to helping all those who started an online application to cross the finish line" by that date. Additionally, those who started but did not complete an online application any time prior to the March 31 deadline may apply by 11:59 p.m. April 15. They must also provide the first premium payment to the insurance company by April 25.

"Health insurance is so important for ongoing preventive care, screenings and tests — and especially when the more extraordinary life events happen," states Wagner.

She shared that it is important for people to be aware that even after April 15, certain "Qualifying Life Events" will qualify people for a special 60-day enrollment period through Covered California. These life events include:

Getting married;

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Having a baby or adopting a child;

Permanently moving to a new area with different health plan options;

Losing other health care protection considered minimum essential coverage;

Change in income that would affect your eligibility for financial assistance.

"For example, if you suddenly lose your job and income, you can go to Covered California and possibly qualify for financial assistance for your health coverage," Wagner explained. "I would advise people to contact Covered California, a local certified enrollment counselor, agent or county eligibility worker to determine if they qualify for the special enrollment period."

These individuals can be located on the covered California site under the menu item, Find Help Near You.

A local insurance broker said there was a high level of activity as western Nevada County residents hurried to enroll by the March 31 deadline. Most of them express satisfaction once they completed the process.

"There are a lot of people signing up for health plans under the new law, and 90 percent of them seem very happy," he said. "Some young people begrudge having to pay a higher premium when they rarely need medical care, but they are getting a better plan that will take care of them when needed," said the broker, who could not be named due to the advertising regulations related to the new insurance act.

He also pointed out that low-cost or no-cost coverage through Medi-Cal is available to consumers year-round for those who qualify. Federally recognized American Indians and Alaska Natives may also enroll all year long.

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.

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