Having health care coverage and getting COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters are critical to protecting your health and the health of your family and community.

Covered California is urging those who do not have health insurance to sign up for affordable, brand-name health plans by its Jan. 31 open-enrollment deadline to have their coverage start Feb. 1. 

This open-enrollment deadline comes as the COVID-19 Omicron variant continues to surge across California and is still disproportionately impacting African Americans and other people of color. With the cost of an emergency room visit averaging $8,000 and COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU care at $127,000 — if you don’t have health insurance — it underscores the importance of having health coverage to avoid medical debt. 

Covered California estimates that there are more than 1 million Californians who currently don’t have health insurance and are eligible for more financial help than ever before through Covered California or Medi-Cal to enroll in brand-name health plans. Right now, two out of every three Covered California enrollees can get comprehensive health coverage for $10 or less per month. 

Marva Neal said she has truly benefitted from having an affordable, quality health plan through Covered California health. Neal lives in Los Angeles and immigrated from Belize to California more than 40 years ago but didn’t have health insurance until early last year, when she got enrolled into a Covered California plan with Molina Health.

“It’s been nothing but easy going since I’ve gotten a health plan,” said Neal. 

Neal works as an aide at a Los Angeles senior day care center and is paying $49 per month for her health coverage. Shortly after getting coverage last year, she spotted a lump on her neck and scheduled an appointment with a physician.

“The doctor said that I had a tumor growing on my neck, and 10 days later I had surgery,” Neil said. “Luckily the tumor was benign, and I didn’t have any problems. Everything went so smooth.”

Signing up for a Covered California or Medi-Cal health plan for 2022 can not only help you avoid high medical bills, but it can also prevent you from having to pay costly penalties at tax time. Consumers who can afford health care coverage but choose to go without could pay a hefty penalty when they file their state taxes next year, which could be as much as $800 for an individual and $2,400 for a family of four. This penalty is administered by California’s Franchise Tax Board

Those interested in learning more about their health coverage options through Covered California and Medi-Cal can:

·      Visit CoveredCA.com. 

·      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.

·      Call Covered California at (800) 300-1506.