Covered Cal rates in the mail

With open enrollment just around the corner — beginning Nov. 1 and running through Jan. 31 — the state Obamacare operation is encouraging consumers to begin their shopping now.

Peter Lee of Covered California health exchangeCovered California began mailing out notices to its health-insurance customers the second week of October, most delivering some dose of sticker shock due to double-digit premium increases.

“Most of those renewing with us get subsidies that mean they are paying only a portion of the premium,” said Covered California chief Peter Lee, left.

“But even without considering the subsidy, nearly 80 percent of our consumers will either be able to pay less than they are paying now for health insurance, or see their rates go up by no more than 5 percent if they shop and switch to another plan.”

Covered California officials have been scrambling to put a positive spin on rate hikes for 2017 that should average more than 13 percent. The premium increases had been expected, but exact prices weren’t set until state regulators signed off on the figures earlier this month.

Lee encouraged consumers to use the “upgraded shopping tool” on the Covered California web site to compare and contrast premiums and coverages. Accepting a higher deductible usually results in lower monthly premiums.

While the Affordable Care Act and its private insurance marketplaces have been a political hot potato this election season, California’s Obamacare operation remains relatively successful in attracting consumers and retaining insurance carriers.

Covered California says it “has helped cut the rate of the uninsured in half in California, from 17.2 percent in 2013 to 8.6 percent in 2015.”

In 2017, Covered California will feature coverage from 11 health insurance companies: Anthem Blue Cross of California, Blue Shield of California, Chinese Community Health Plan, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, L.A. Care Health Plan, Molina Healthcare, Oscar Health Plan of California, Sharp Health Plan, Valley Health Plan and Western Health Advantage.

Existing Covered California customers who take no action by Dec. 15 will be automatically renewed into their existing plan. People seeking health-care coverage for the beginning of 2017 need to sign up by mid-December, even though open enrollment continues into the new year.

> View the Covered California member renewal page.

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