Covered CA prices increase by 6.8%

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Health insurance exchange rates are still lower in Tulare County than for most of the state

By Reggie Ellis
@Reggie_SGN

tulare county – California’s health insurance exchange increased its rates for Tulare County plans, but lower than the statewide average.

Earlier this month, Covered California announced its 2019 rates and plans showing a 6.8% increase for consumers in Region 10, which encompasses San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Mariposa and Tulare counties. The rate is below the statewide average rate change of 8.7 percent which increased due to several factors. The federal government’s decision to remove the individual mandate penalty added about 3.5% to the increase this year, costing Californians collectively $400 million. This may hurt the poorest residents the most with uncompensated care rising by about $1,000 per person. Those making 138% of the federal poverty level, about $34,600 for a family of four, qualify for Medi-Cal.

Some of this was counteracted by the federal suspension of the annual health insurer tax, which lowered rates by approximately 1.6%. Consumers who switch to the lowest-priced plan in their same tier can save another 0.7%.

“Covered California’s marketplace fosters competition that puts consumers in the driver’s seat and gives them the power to shop and save,” Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said. “Health care is local, and the price of coverage varies by health plan and region, so consumers will be encouraged to shop when they renew this fall.”

Over the past five years, Covered California has held actual average annual rate changes for unsubsidized consumers to an estimated average of 7.9 percent and 3.8 percent for subsidized consumers. A 2017 study by The Commonwealth Fund, “Consumers Buy Lower-Cost Plans on Covered California, Suggesting Exposure to Premium Increases is Less than Commonly Reported,” found Covered California’s consumers regularly ended up paying much less than the average price of plans. The study looked at the policies Covered California consumers purchased between 2014 and 2016 and found the average price paid in each year has been between 11 and 15 percent less than the average price of the plans offered.

The most recent data shows there are more than 68,000 Covered California members in these counties, and depending on their ZIP code, Covered California’s Region 10 consumers will once again be able to choose plans from Anthem, Blue Shield, Health Net and Kaiser Permanente.

In fact, all 11 insurers currently serving Covered California consumers across the state will return for the 2019 coverage year. The exchange estimates that 96 percent of consumers are able to choose from two insurers or more and 82 percent of consumers have three or more choices.

Consumers can find out what they will pay for their 2019 coverage starting during the renewal period in October, by visiting Covered California’s website at www.CoveredCA.com and begin using the Shop and Compare Tool for 2019.

Consumers who do not have health insurance can begin signing up for 2019 coverage on Oct. 15. Others with special qualifying life events, like losing their coverage or moving, can enroll year round. Medi-Cal enrollment is also year round.

People who are interested in signing up should go to www.CoveredCA.com where they can get help to enroll. They can explore their options and find out if they qualify for financial help by using the Shop and Compare Tool. They can also get free and confidential enrollment assistance by visiting www.coveredca.com/find-help/ and searching among 800 storefronts statewide, or more than 17,000 certified enrollers who can assist consumers in understanding their choices and enrolling, including individuals who can assist in other languages. In addition, consumers can reach the Covered California service center by calling (800) 300-1506.

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