What California Residents Need to Know About Obamacare
In California, open enrollment for 2018 health insurance plans begins November 1, 2017 and ends January 31, 2018.
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has not been repealed. You are still required to comply with the ACA and you are still entitled to its benefits.
This website provides information about getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including:
- whether or not you must get health insurance
- what the available plans cover
- how much coverage will cost
- how to sign up for a plan
- how to get help if you need it.
To begin, keep in mind these key points about health insurance in California:
1. You are legally required to have health insurance unless you qualify for an exemption.
The Affordable Care Act requires you to enroll in a health insurance plan unless you qualify for an exemption from the law. You must report whether you have coverage -- or whether you are exempt -- when you file your taxes in April.
To learn whether your current health plan satisfies the requirements of the Affordable Care Act or to find out whether you qualify for an exemption, see Do I Need to Get Obamacare in California?
2. Open enrollment for 2018 health insurance plans runs from November 1, 2017 to January 31, 2018.
For 2018 health plans, California open enrollment runs from November 1, 2017 through January 31, 2018. Beginning Oct. 11, you can use the Shop and Compare Tool at Covered California to find out your options and prices for 2018 plans.
Then, during open enrollment, you may use Covered California to choose your health insurance plan, apply for cost-saving subsidies, and get other help you need.
To get coverage beginning January 1, 2018 you must enroll by the end of the day on Friday, December 15.
If you are currently uninsured, you can use the state marketplace 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. If your plan has been discontinued, you will be enrolled in a plan deemed "similar" by Covered California.
Even if you can continue in the plan you have now, however, open enrollment provides an opportunity to review your coverage, compare plans, and switch to a new one if you find a better option.
To learn more about enrollment, see How To Sign Up for Obamacare in California.
3. Tax credits are still available to save you money.
Many people who sign up for insurance at the California exchange will be eligible for cost savings. For 2018 health insurance plans, savings are available in the form of tax credits to help you lower your premiums.
In addition, if your income is very low, you may qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid in California.
For more information, see Ways to Save Money on Obamacare in California.
4. California was prepared for the loss of federal subsidies for insurers, so your premiums probably won't be affected.
On October 12, 2017, the Trump administration ended subsidies for insurers called "cost-sharing reductions." These payments to insurance companies allowed them to reduce deductibles and co-payments for Americans with incomes between 100% and 250% of the federal poverty level.
In the long run, this decision could destabilize the Affordable Care Act's insurance marketplaces. For 2018 coverage, however, many people's pocketbooks may escape direct effects because tax credits will increase to cover the damages. In California, for example, regulators stayed ahead of Trump's game by adding a surcharge to certain plans sold through Covered California. Additional tax credits will take care of the surcharge for those who qualify.
Those who do NOT qualify for tax credits through Covered California can avoid the surcharge by purchasing their 2018 health plan directly from an insurance company rather than from Covered California.
For more information, see this press release from Covered California.
A health insurance agent or broker may be your best bet for sorting out your coverage options. To find one, see How To Sign Up for Obamacare in California.
5. Some Insurers Are Leaving the Obamacare Marketplace in California for 2018
Anthem Blue Cross and HealthNet are leaving some parts of the California for 2018. If your plan is affected, you should receive notices from your insurer and from Covered California.
If you receive a notice, you can learn more from this FAQ.
6. You can get help signing up if you need it.
You may have heard that it will be more difficult to find enrollment help this year. That's because the Trump administration has drastically cut funding for the programs that provide enrollment help in many states. The good news is that California doesn't rely on federal funding for its outreach and enrollment assistance programs.
For the help resources available to you, see Get Help Finding a Health Insurance Plan in California.
You may also be interested in:
Learn the five factors that determine what California residents will pay for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
Learn which California residents must have health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) and find out about the penalty you'll pay if you don't have a qualifying health plan.
Learn where California residents should go to get health plans under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and how to get help with the application process.