As of Wednesday, Jan. 22, more than 318,000 consumers had newly signed up for health insurance through Covered California during the current open-enrollment period, which surpassed last year’s total of 295,000.

“With one week to go in open enrollment, Covered California has surpassed last year’s open enrollment total, but thousands are signing up every day and we’re not done yet,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “Californians have until midnight on January 31st to sign up and not only avoid paying a penalty to the  Franchise Tax Board but — for almost a million Californians — get new help from the state to lower their health care costs.”

The open-enrollment period runs through Jan. 31. It is the one time of the year when consumers can freely sign up for coverage without having to experience a qualifying life change. People who sign up by the deadline will have their coverage start on Feb. 1.

Having a health insurance plan in place this year is critical because of a new law that the state of California enacted that requires Californians to have coverage in 2020. Those who can afford coverage, but choose to go without it, could face a penalty when they file their taxes with the California Franchise Tax Board in 2021. The penalty can be more than $2,000 for a family of four.

“We do not want Californians to write a check to the Franchise Tax Board when they could get coverage that is way more affordable than they think,” Lee said. “This year there is new financial help that will help nearly one million people lower the cost of their coverage.”

A recent survey released by Covered California, Californians’ Understanding of the Mandate to Have Health Coverage and the Awareness of Financial Help, found that many people, particularly the uninsured, are unaware of the new penalty and additional financial help. Among the findings:

  • Many Californians do not know about the new penalty

Many Californians reported being unaware of the new requirement to have health coverage in 2020 or face a penalty, including a majority of the uninsured (56 percent).

  • Many uninsured Californians are unaware that financial help is available

Among the uninsured, 62 percent are unaware that Covered California offers financial help to help pay for health insurance.  In addition, only 27 percent of the uninsured are aware that Californians can receive even more financial help than ever before for health coverage.

“The new state subsidies and the requirement to have coverage are the two biggest changes effecting individuals who do not have employer coverage since Covered California first opened our doors in 2014 and we want to make sure consumers know that health insurance could be more affordable than they think,” Lee said. “People need to take action by next Friday, so they do not get caught paying a significant penalty when they file their taxes a year from now.”

In addition to the new state penalty California also expanded the amount of financial help available to many consumers, including a first-in-the-nation program to help middle-income consumers afford coverage.

The new state subsidies could extend to an individual making up to $74,940 and a family of four with a household income of up to $154,500.

Right now, the average subsidy for eligible consumers earning less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level is $447 per month; the average state subsidy for eligible middle-income consumers is $469 per month.

Californians Can Still Enroll

Covered California’s open-enrollment period runs through Jan. 31. Consumers can easily find out if they are eligible for financial help and see which plans are available in their area by entering their ZIP code, household income and the ages of those who need coverage into Covered California’s Shop and Compare Tool.

Those interested in learning more about their coverage options can:

  • Visit
  • Get free and confidential in-person assistance, in a variety of languages, from a certified enroller.
    Have a certified enroller call them and help them for free.
  • Call Covered California at (800) 300-1506.

“Californians owe it to themselves to take a few minutes of their day to see whether they qualify for financial help from the federal government, the state, or both,” Lee said. “Visit and check out your options before the end of the month.”

Image Sources

  • Covered California: Shutterstock