Home » Featured, Health » Obamacare: Health insurance enrollment period has begun via Covered California

Today marks the first day of open enrollment for health plans under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, a law that promises to provide affordable health insurance to many of the country’s 48 million uninsured.

Californians can sign up for a health plan on the state’s online marketplace, coveredca.com. Although some delays have been reported—those who qualify for California’s expanded Medi-Cal program won’t be able to enroll through Covered California’s website until sometime next year and the online Spanish-language enrollment would not be available until “sometime in October”— the website is now live and you can begin shopping.

Last month, we held a community forum on health care to answer of your questions on coverage options and responsibilities (watch a video and recap). And we have also published several stories about how this will affect the community of Boyle Heights (see our coverage).

To help you get started, we’ve compiled some quick facts and tips:

Enrollment Timeline:
Open enrollment runs between October 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014.
Plans bought through the exchanges will start on January 1, 2014.
December 14 is the cut-off date if you want your plan to start January 1.
If you sign up in January or February your coverage will start the following month.

Ways to Enroll:
By mail:
Send application forms to:
Covered California Service Center
P.O. Box 3530
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670-5667

Online:
Visit coveredca.com

In person:
Visit a local health center, enrollment fairs or call the Covered California hotline (888) 975-1142 to learn where you can sign up in your community.

Types of Plans and Cost:
There are several types of plans; Costs vary depending on the plan you buy. Bronze, plans are the most basic, while silver is a midrange option and gold and platinum are on the higher-end. No one can be denied insurance for pre-existing conditions. Visit coveredca.com for more and to see if you are eligible for tax breaks and subsidies to pay for your insurance. View the graph below to see what you qualify for or visit the subsidy calculator to see your options here.

Screen shot of CoveredCa.com

Screen shot of CoveredCa.com

Penalties:
If you choose to not buy insurance, you’ll list that on your 2014 tax return. The fee for the first year is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child (up to $285 per family), or 1% of your income, whatever is higher. (Fee will increase in the future). Those who cannot afford insurance will be exempt from the health insurance mandate.

What if I’m Undocumented?
You are not required to buy insurance.
You cannot buy insurance through CoveredCa.com
Low or no-cost primary care remains available through some county and community clinics, including:
1. LAC USC Medical Center
1100 N State St, Los Angeles, Ca 90033

2. Edward Roybal Comprehensive Health Center
245 S Fetterly Ave. Los Angeles, Ca 90022 (323) 780-2373

3. Clinica Monsenor Oscar A. Romero Community Health Center
2032 Marengo St., Los Angeles, Ca 90033 (323) 987-1030

Where I can go to sign up for MediCal?
Many health care centers will sign you up on the spot–including those listed above. For more ways to sign up visit dhcs.ca.gov or call the Medi-Cal hotline at (877) 597-4777

Important note: Although many organizations, health providers and agencies are raising awareness and information about Covered California, singing up is free of charge and no one should have to pay for this service.

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