COBRA extension for Covered Cal

Obamacare in California logo - health exchangeConsumers with coverage under COBRA can buy health insurance via Covered California under a program that runs through July 15.

COBRA policy holders “could save thousands of dollars a year,” Covered California said in announcing the two-month sign-up period May 15.

The program comes in the wake of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ruling announced May 2 that allows COBRA enrollees to buy Affordable Care Act plans through the federal Obamacare program until July 1.

COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) allows people who leave jobs to retain their health insurance, but they must pay the premiums. In many cases, the consumers do not have new jobs. COBRA lasts up to 36 months in California.

Covered California chief Peter Lee said the state Obamacare’s web site didn’t make the options available to COBRA participants clear — “an IT glitch.”

Lee said his organization “absolutely focused on people without insurance” at the expense of potential COBRA conversions.

Open enrollment for Covered California policies closed March 31.

Lee said in a press release that “plans in the individual market could be preferable to COBRA coverage because of premium assistance and cost-sharing reductions, available only through the exchanges.” The “reductions” would be tax credits offered to those whose incomes allow for subsidies.

About 300,000 consumers in California have COBRA coverage.

Covered California warned in its COBRA FAQ: “It’s important to know that if you decide to drop COBRA and enroll in a Covered California plan, you cannot change your mind and go back to COBRA. If you drop COBRA, you will not be able to return to your plan.”

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