In the face of rising COVID-19 cases that are disproportionately infecting and killing African Americans and other people of color, Covered California has taken the unprecedented step of giving consumers until Dec. 30 to sign up for health insurance coverage that begins on Jan. 1. Covered California’s original enrollment deadline was Dec. 15 for coverage that starts on New Year’s Day.
Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tens of thousands of African Americans have benefited from health insurance through Covered California at one time or another since 2013, but there still are an estimated 67,000 uninsured Africans Americans in the state who are eligible for financial help to pay for health coverage through Covered California or low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal.
Roughly nine out of every 10 consumers who enroll through Covered California receive financial assistance — in the form of federal tax credits, state financial help, or both — which helps make health care much more affordable.
One person who has benefited from health insurance through Covered California is San Francisco Bay Area resident Rose Wilkerson. Rose Wilkerson video
“It’s just been fabulous for me,” said Wilkerson, a college lecturer and blogger who writes about African Americans in the tech industry. “I tore my lateral meniscus in my right knee, and I was having a lot of knee pain and having difficulty walking. So I had the surgery done … and my knee got better. And the great news about that I didn’t really have pay a lot of money.
“There was a period of time where I didn’t have full-time employment which meant I couldn’t get health insurance at all,” Wilkerson added. “It made me feel very vulnerable, very scared. Then I was able to get private health insurance through Covered California, which had some great plans. You can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars if you don’t have health insurance or if don’t have really good coverage.”
Consumers who sign up by Dec. 30 will need to pay their first bill in order to have their health coverage take effect on Jan. 1.
“Most of the people who are uninsured either do not know they are eligible for financial assistance, or they have not checked recently to see how affordable quality coverage can be,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California. “No one should wait to sign up, and we are extending the deadline through Dec. 30 to give all of us more time to spread the word and make sure our family and friends have health insurance during this pandemic.”
Those interested in learning more about their coverage options can:
–Get free and confidential assistance, in a variety of languages, from a certified enroller.
-Have a certified enroller call them and help them for free, or call Covered California at (800) 300-1506.