Covered Cal sign-ups rise 23%

Halfway through the first month of open enrollment, Covered California reports more than 48,000 new consumers have signed up for health insurance via the marketplace.

For the period Nov. 1 through Nov. 15, sign-ups are outrunning figures from a year ago, in which 39,000 new consumers enrolled. That’s an increase of about 23 percent.

Peter Lee

Covered California chief Peter Lee during promotional stop for open enrollment in Oakland.

Peter Lee, executive director of the state Obamacare operation said: “While we are encouraged by these early results, we will continue to work hard to get the word out so consumers know they have until Jan. 31 to sign up for coverage.”

California’s open enrollment runs through Jan. 31, unlike the shorter period in most other states. For California health coverage that begins Jan. 1, the enrollment must be completed by Dec. 15.

The number of new consumers enrolled in silver-tier plans, which are subject to a surcharge caused by the Trump administration’s decision to end reimbursement payments for cost-sharing reductions, dropped from 56 percent to 45 percent. Silver has the lowest base premiums and continues to be the most-selected tier. Gold-tier enrollments increased from 4 percent during the first two weeks of 2016 to 12 percent.

“Consumers are shopping smart, and finding out that there are many good options this year that are well within their reach,” Lee said. “Anyone who has shopped in the past should come back and take a second look because prices are lower for many.”

Covered California claims that “the majority of consumers signing up will be able to pay lower prices in 2018 than they would have for the same plans last year.”

Lee said Covered California remains “a stable market” whose successes make it “disheartening to see Congress discussing another attempt to unravel the law in a way that would send premiums higher and cause many Americans to lose coverage.”

Revisions to the federal tax structure have included plans to end the “individual mandate” that requires consumers to pay a penalty if they choose to go without insurance. The government would save as much as $338 billion over the next decade because fewer people would sign up for health plans made attractive by federal subsidies.

Covered California estimates it would lose 320,000 customers without the individual mandate. Many of those would be healthy individuals, while those with health problems would be more likely to remain in the risk pool.

Since 2014, more than 3 million people have purchased health insurance through Covered California.

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