Open enrollment period for government-funded insurance program Covered California began on November 1. A number of Californians are sending inquiries to seek less expensive insurance costs by changing their plans or limiting the premiums.
Families with increased income are no longer eligible for the assistant funding for health insurance from the government. For those families who are affected by the change, insurance cost could rise from 50 to 100 percent depending on various conditions.
“It’s important for people to check with their doctor’s offices to confirm changes as the insurance plans may be different,” said Top Alliance Insurance agent Benjamin Han. “What’s stated on the website may be different to what’s applicable for certain people.”
Many Korean insurance agents in California explain that, in most cases, the average increase in insurance costs for commoners are around 10 to 30 percent. They advised that, for cases in which the cost rose by 20 percent or higher, the most realistic solution is to change their insurance to HMO or downgrading the current plans.
“It’s necessary to either change the insurance to HMO or exercising various options in your currently existing plans if the cost hiked by around 40 percent,” said Top Alliance Insurance chief Jason Choi. “It’s not that every plan now costs more by at least 20 percent. For example, Sharp Health Plan’s increase in cost is as low as 4.7 to as high as 13.8 percent depending on the plan.”
Insurance agents also warned against those who wish to downgrade their insurance plans for the sole purpose of driving down costs. While cutting costs may make the expenses more affordable in the short term, such a cheap insurance plan may not be too effective when it is truly needed, especially when the patient may need a visit to the hospital or operations. Agents added that the best way to select the most suitable plan for each person is to make a decision after holding a thorough discussion with a doctor.
In 2017, 11 insurance companies will provide Covered California’s plans, including Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield and Healthnet, across 19 different areas in Southern California. Compared to Northern California, the cost is higher by an average of $110. Monterrey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties have been affected by the highest increase in costs, which is estimated at around 28.9 percent.
Across L.A. County’s northeastern region (district 15), the insurance costs have been increased by an average of 16.4 percent. It has also been reported that 90 percent of the 175,111 people in the area who renewed their plans are receiving assistant funding. In district 16, where 217,907 have renewed their plans (85 percent of them are receiving government assistance), the expected increase of insurance cost is 13.9 percent.
In Orange County, the insurance cost rose by an average of 14.4 percent for 142,020 who renewed their plans, 88 percent of whom will receive government assisted funding.
Covered California membership is available year-round, even outside of its signup period, to those who are ineligible for Medicare. It is also available to households affected by change in income, those who are 26 or older whose insurance plans is no longer to be under their parents’ names and mothers who are nearing their due dates.
The fine for not signing up for Covered California is at most $695 for individuals and $2,100 for a house hold of at least three. The deadline to sign up is Jan. 31.
By Brian Choi