Black & Magazine Newswire

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As the state of California is taking action on many fronts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Covered California and the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) joined together to make sure that those losing employment would have a ready path to coverage —  whether through Medi-Cal or the plans offered through Covered California.

Effective Friday, March 20, Covered California opened the health insurance exchange to any eligible uninsured individuals who need health care coverage amid the COVID-19 national emergency. Anyone who meets Covered California’s eligibility requirements, which are similar to those in place during the annual open-enrollment period, can sign up for coverage through June 30.

“We want to get as many people covered as possible to ensure they have access to the health care they need,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California. “Having more people insured is the right thing to do, and this action builds on our efforts to leave no one behind in California.”

People who sign up through Covered California will have access to private health insurance plans with monthly premiums that may be lowered due to federal and new state financial help that became effective in 2020. After selecting a plan, their coverage would begin on the first of the following month —  meaning individuals losing job-based coverage will not face a gap in coverage.

In addition, consumers who sign up through CoveredCA.com may find out that they are eligible for no-cost or low-cost coverage through Medi-Cal, which they can enroll in online. Those eligible for Medi-Cal can have coverage that is immediately effective.

California has put a 90-day hold on Medi-Cal renewal reviews, ensuring those already enrolled can continue their coverage and freeing up resources to quickly process the expected new enrollments. DHCS also is seeking expanded authority to expedite enrollment for seniors and other vulnerable populations, expand the use of telehealth, and take other steps to make care easier to access.

“The extraordinary challenges posed by COVID-19 demand an equally extraordinary response, and the Medi-Cal and Covered California systems are stepping up to meet the need for health coverage and ease access to services,” said Dr. Bradley P. Gilbert, Director of the Department of Health Care Services.

DHCS oversees Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid, which provides coverage for about 13 million Californians.

The California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) and the California Department of Insurance will provide guidance to health plans on the special-enrollment period, which will also include off-exchange health plans. This will ensure consumers enrolling in the entire individual market in California will have access to coverage during the pandemic emergency.

“We are working together to protect the health and safety of Californians during this pandemic,” said DMHC Director Shelley Rouillard. “This includes making sure that Californians are able to access health care coverage. Opening a special-enrollment period due to COVID-19 offers new coverage options to Californians when they need it most.”

All Covered California and Medi-Cal Plans Offering Telehealth Options

All health plans offered through Covered California and by Medi-Cal provide telehealth options for enrollees, giving individuals the ability to connect with a health care professional by phone or video without having to personally visit a doctor’s office or hospital.

All medically necessary screening and testing for COVID-19 is free of charge. This includes telehealth or doctor’s office visits as well as network emergency room or urgent care visits when necessary for the purpose of screening and testing for COVID-19. In addition, Medi-Cal covers costs associated with COVID-19 in both its managed care plans and with fee for service providers. Covered California health plans will help cover costs that arise from any required treatment or hospitalization.

“A core part of our mission is improving access to high-quality health care, and that has never been more important than it is right now in California,” Lee said.

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