December 4, 2023

Health Insurance

Follow Your Health Insurance

It’s time to enroll in California’s health insurance program

Think you or your friend or your relative can’t afford decent health insurance in California? There’s a high probability that you’re wrong.

More than a million uninsured Californians are eligible for low- or no-cost coverage through Covered California or Medi-Cal. In addition, many middle-income Californians who buy their own health insurance could save thousands of dollars by looking into Covered California plans.

Covered California is our state’s version of “Obamacare,” the health insurance provided through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed during the Obama administration.

Something Californians need to keep in mind is that health insurance isn’t optional here. When Congress and the Trump administration dropped the mandate that most Americans have health insurance, California added it back. That means most Californians are required to have health insurance that complies with the federal standard. Otherwise, they face a financial penalty, although some people can be exempted.

We’re bringing all this up because open enrollment began this week for 2023 health care coverage.

Statewide, nearly 1.7 million people are enrolled in California’s health coverage, with nearly 90% having their premiums subsidized in whole or in part. Participants are of all ages, races and ethnicities. More than 24,000 Sonoma County residents participate. Total enrollment in North Bay counties is more than 59,000.

On average, premiums will increase almost 6% next year, but subsidies also have increased to blunt the added cost. Of the million-plus uninsured Californians eligible for financial help, some 55% could pay nothing to receive health insurance through Covered California or Medi-Cal. In fact, two-thirds of current participants are eligible for comprehensive coverage while paying $10 or less per month.

Meanwhile, a new IRS rule means more working families will be eligible for subsidies next year. To find out if you’re eligible, whether you would qualify for subsidies and to compare plans, go to You’ll be asked for your household income, ZIP code, number of people in your household, the number who need coverage and their ages.

Or you can arrange to have a licensed insurance agent call you back within 15 minutes to discuss your options. The call is confidential and there is no charge. Many consumers, especially first-time enrollees, go this route. You also can call Covered California at (800) 300-1506, or contact an enrollment counselor or county assistance center.

Covered California already reduced the state’s uninsured rate by 10 percentage points in just a decade. Seventeen percent of Californians didn’t have health insurance in 2013. Last year only 7% didn’t, better than the national average.

What matters more than impersonal statistics, however, is the real-life reassurance that decent health insurance provides: the knowledge that we can seek health care without worrying as much about how we will pay for it.

Going without health insurance is a gamble that’s rarely worth the risk — especially when Covered California is on the table with an affordable option.

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