What California Residents Need to Know About Obamacare for 2024


Essential facts about the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) in California, including whether you must get health insurance, how much it costs, and how you can save money.



California open enrollment for 2024 health insurance plans runs from November 1, 2023 until January 31, 2024.

This website provides information about getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including:

To begin, keep in mind these key points about health insurance in California:

1. California law requires you to have health insurance.

The federal tax penalty for going without health insurance ended in 2019, but several states, including California, have enacted laws to replace it. If you are uninsured in 2022 and you don't qualify for an exemption, you'll face a penalty when you file your California taxes in 2024.

To learn more about the penalty and to find out whether you qualify for an exemption, see Do I Have to Get Health Insurance in California?

2. Open enrollment for 2024 health insurance plans runs from Wednesday, November 1, 2023 through Wednesday, January 31, 2024.

California residents can sign up for 2024 health coverage from November 1, 2023 to January 31, 2024. For most people, if you enroll by December 15, your coverage will begin on January 1, 2024. 

Enrollment for 2023 health coverage has ended, but you can get covered for the rest of the year if you qualify for a special enrollment period, including job or income loss. 

If you're uninsured, you can use Covered California to compare plans and enroll in a plan that meets your needs. 

If you already have health insurance, you will be automatically re-enrolled in your existing plan if it is still available. Even if your plan is continuing, open enrollment is an excellent time to review your coverage, compare plans, and switch to a new one if you find a better option. If your insurance company stops offering your current health plan, they may "map" you onto a new plan. In this case, it's vital that you to investigate your options to be sure you get the best plan for you. 

To learn more about enrollment, see How To Sign Up for Obamacare in California.

 3. You may qualify for new Affordable Care Act subsidies.

In 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The law provided $1.9 trillion of federal aid to Americans struggling with the COVID-19 crisis, including additional premium subsidies for those who purchase health insurance through Covered California. In 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act extended these more generous subsidies through 2025. In addition, California offers state financial assistance. Here's a quick summary of the main programs available to you:

Federal tax credits. Under ARPA, no one will have to pay more than 8.5% of their household income for a mid-level plan purchased from Covered California. Technically, the subsidies are tax credits, but you can choose to have them automatically deducted from the cost of your monthly premiums.

Cost-sharing subsidies. More than half of the people who purchase coverage through Covered California receive assistance through cost-sharing reductions (CSRs). CSRs automatically reduce your premiums and lower your costs when you use your insurance benefits—for example, when you go to the doctor, get lab work, or have to stay in the hospital.

CSRs are available to people who make between 100% and 250% of the federal poverty level. (For 2023 health plans, that means a family of four in California can't earn more than $75,000 and an individual not more than $36,450.) But these benefits are available only on silver plans. If you think you may qualify, look carefully at the costs for silver plans available at Covered California while shopping for coverage.

California state subsidies. The state offers its own subsidies to the following three groups:

  • Californians who earn between 400% and 600% of the federal poverty level are eligible to save an average of 23% on their monthly premiums. For 2022, 600% of the federal poverty level is $81,540 for an individual and $166,500 for a family of four.
  • Those earning between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level (see above) are eligible to receive state subsidies in addition to federal assistance. The state subsidy will contribute additional average savings of 5% on monthly premiums.
  • State residents whose annual household income is less than 138% of the federal poverty level may see premiums for certain plans lowered to just $1 per person, per month. The 2022 earnings cutoff for this level is $20,120 for an individual and $41,400 for a family of four.

Medicaid. If your income is very low, you may qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medi-Cal in California.

For more information, see Ways to Save Money on Obamacare in California.

4. Average premium rates are going up, but that doesn't mean you'll pay more.

Costs vary from insurer to insurer and plan to plan. Also, if premiums for the benchmark plan (the plan used to determine subsidy amounts) go up, subsidies will go up, too. Comparison shop at Covered California to find the plans and subsidies available to you.

5. California bans the sale of "short-term insurance plans" lasting more than 12 months.

In 2018, the Trump administration made it easier to purchase short-term insurance plans. These plans don't have to cover preexisting conditions or the essential health benefits provided by Obamacare plans. The new federal rules say that short-term plans can last for as long as three years. But California placed its own limits on the expansion of short-term plans. Under California law, insurers may not sell short-term plans lasting longer than 12 months.

If you’re genuinely caught without health insurance and need it for a few months to cover a new health condition, you might want to consider a short-term plan to get you through to the next open enrollment period. Otherwise, be careful of plans that don’t meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Shop around to look for coverage that truly meets your needs.

Remember, if your income is very low, you may qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medi-Cal in California.

6. You can get help signing up if you need it.

The Biden administration has greatly increased enrollment assistance, making it much easier to get the information you need to get covered. To connect with local support resources, see How To Sign Up for Obamacare in California.


Jurisdictional relevance: ST

There are versions of this article for each State.

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