U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced Wednesday that a record 13.6 million Americans have signed up for health care coverage through insurance exchanges launched during the Obama Administration.
"Health coverage is more affordable than ever before," said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, "and the great news is that people still have (time) ... to sign up. The pandemic has made the need for health care coverage clear, and the Biden-Harris administration has put it in reach of millions of people who were previously did not have that peace of mind."
On Mar. 11, President Biden signed an economic relief bill called the American Rescue Plan Act that increased the premium subsidies U.S. citizens can receive and expanded the number of people who can get assistance by raising income ceilings. The law essentially caps what most consumers will have to pay at 8.5% of their household income, according to Covered California.
More than 4.6 million Americans have gained health care coverage since Biden took office, Becerra noted in a Wednesday morning teleconference with media.
All those who have signed up so far will have insurance starting Jan. 1, but so will anyone else who signs up for coverage by Dec. 31. In California, consumers can go to www.coveredca.com or call (800) 300-1506 to apply for coverage, find an agent who will meet them in person, or see how much a policy will cost.
If people don't get signed up during the busy holiday season, Becerra said, they still will be able to do so through Jan. 15. That's because the Biden-Harris administration extended the deadline for the federal insurance marketplace. Covered California, which is a state-based marketplace, will continue its open enrollment through Jan. 31. Any policies started in January will begin coverage on Feb. 1.
More than 100,000 Sacramento-area residents — and 1.1 million California residents — don't have health insurance, and the majority of them qualify for financial assistance that would allow them to get covered without having to pay one dime, according to Covered California.
"New coverage options give many Californians access to quality care that can help them stay out of the emergency room or hospital," said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California," "and if you do end up needing care, this newly affordable health insurance can protect you and your family from medical bills that can be staggering."
Lee's team found that, during 2019 and 2020, more than 95% of Covered California enrollees paid as little as $375 out of pocket, on average, for emergency room visits. Hospitals had charged an average $8,000 for those visits. One in 10 Covered California members visited an ER during that period.
When it comes to hospital admissions, fewer than 3% of enrollees were admitted for care, according to Covered California data, but those who were paid an average of $2,700 out of pocket on hospital charges that averaged $43,000. Insurance picked up well over 90 percent of the expenses.
Coverage matters, Lee said, and these data show just how much financial protection insurers are providing through the comprehensive plans offered on the Covered California marketplace.
"No one wants to end up in an emergency room or hospital, but if you do, a quality health insurance plan through Covered California can save you tens of thousands of dollars," Lee said. "In addition, having health insurance means you are more likely to get preventive care and regular treatment for chronic conditions, which helps keep you out of the hospital in the first place."
Covered California pointed to a recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, in which two out of every five uninsured adults reported not having seen a doctor or health care professional over the last 12 months. Nearly one in every three individuals surveyed said they either postponed care or went without it because of cost.
"Regardless of where you live, how much you make, what language you speak or what community you're from, Covered California wants you to get the care you need to stay healthy," said Dr. Alice Hm Chen, chief medical officer for the state marketplace. "Covered California plans provide access to some of the best doctors and hospitals across the state and include coverage for both physical and mental health care."
(c)2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)
Visit The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) at www.sacbee.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.