342,000 newbies for Covered Cal

About 342,000 new consumers have signed up for health insurance via Covered California as of Jan. 21.

Peter Lee of Covered California health exchangeThe state Obamacare operation said the pace of new sign-ups for the 2018 open enrollment period is running well ahead of last year, despite the political uncertainty about federal health-care policy.

More than 1.2 million current Covered California customers have renewed for the year.

Open enrollment continues through Jan. 31.

“The demand — as well as the need — for health insurance is as strong today as it was when we first began offering coverage five years ago,” said Covered California chief Peter Lee, above. “The people of California are taking advantage of the quality plans and lower costs available through Covered California in 2018.”

The agency appears concerned that consumers are under the impression that federal penalties for not having insurance are no longer in effect.

It reminded Californians that the federal “individual mandate” remains in effect for 2018. Lawmakers eliminated that requirement that individuals have health insurance or pay a tax penalty, but that doesn’t happen until 2019.

Covered California claims that the majority of uninsured consumers could buy health insurance for less than the cost of the federal penalty.

“The real penalty for not having health insurance is getting sick or injured and facing medical bills that are in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Lee said.

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