Thousands of San Luis Obispo County residents are eligible for financial help to get health insurance through Covered California during an open enrollment, despite failed efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“The sort of drum beat from Washington is about repeal and replace, and even saying it’s gone. It’s not gone,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California. “Our No. 1 message is: The Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land.”
He spoke in San Luis Obispo on Friday as part of a bus tour to promote Covered California and an open enrollment period that began Wednesday and will continue through January. He encouraged people to visit CoveredCA.com to check eligibility and prices.
“There are thousands of people in this community who are eligible today who don’t know it. Many are uninsured,” he said. “And some who are buying insurance and haven’t check to see if they can get financial help.”
The future of Covered California was uncertain for months with policy changes made by the Trump Administration and multiple attempts by Congress to repeal the law. As a result, San Luis Obispo County will see an average 9 percent premium increase and fewer options for health care providers.
That doesn’t mean everyone will be paying more for insurance from the state marketplace. While premiums have gone up, subsidies have as well, meaning some people could pay less for insurance than they did last year, according to Covered California spokesperson Amy Palmer.
“Seventy percent of people who sign up with us are paying less than $100 a month for their health insurance because they get financial help. It’s just like those of us who get financial help through our job,” Lee said. “We couldn’t afford it if we didn’t get that financial leg up, and that’s what Covered California is doing — giving the rest of Californian the leg up that many of us get through our job.”
Months ago, Anthem Blue Cross pulled out of the Central Coast region, leaving 4,620 San Luis Obispo County residents who were enrolled in its health plans as of March 2017 who now need to switch coverage.
“They weren’t making the money they wanted to make,” Lee said of Anthem’s decision. “So they made a business decision to scale back. But part of what led to that decision is the national uncertainty. They were seeing the storm clouds.”
That leaves Blue Shield of California as the single provider, which Lee said still provides consumers with options.
“The real choice consumers care about isn’t the choice of insurance plans, its the choice of doctors. Blue Shield of California has a great network of doctors a great network of hospitals,” Lee said.
As of March, 12,990 San Luis Obispo County residents were insured through Covered California.