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HANFORD — Covered California kicked-off its fifth open enrollment period Wednesday and will stay open for three months for anyone interested in purchasing a health insurance plan.

“While we know there is confusion because of the uncertainty in Washington, we want people to know that Covered California is rock solid,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California, in a press release. “We’re offering stability, choice and affordable options in 2018 in the face of uncertainty in much of the country.”

Since 2014, legal residents who don’t have health insurance from either a government agency or their employer are eligible to purchase health insurance through Covered California, a state insurance marketplace.

Under the Affordable Care Act, most U.S. citizens are required to have health coverage. Citizens without health coverage are subject to a tax penalty.

Open enrollment is the one time of year when anyone who needs health insurance can enroll without needing to meet special qualifying conditions. Covered California’s open-enrollment period will continue until Jan. 31, 2018.

“While we encourage all consumers to sign up by Dec. 15 to get coverage that starts on Jan. 1, we will continue with open enrollment through Jan. 31 to give our consumers time to explore their options, change plans if they need to and shop for the health coverage that’s right for them,” Lee said.

For coverage to start by Feb. 1, consumers must sign up for a plan by Jan. 15. Signing up on any date between Jan. 16-31 means coverage will start March 1.

Covered California officials encourage people to go to its website to shop and compare pricing options because some 2018 rates have changed.

“For the 1.1 million Californians who enroll with us and get financial help, on average the price they pay will actually go down — even though their underlying rate is going up,” Lee said.

According to Covered California income guidelines, if someone makes less than $47,520 per year or if a family of four earns less than $97,200 per year, then they can qualify for government assistance based on their income.

Since 2014, more than 3 million people have purchased health insurance through Covered California and nearly 4 million have enrolled in the state’s Medi-Cal program, stated a press release from Covered California.

Current Covered California membership is at about 1.3 million enrollees.

Individuals and families can visit Covered California’s website to see if they qualify for either Covered California or Medi-Cal.

“The distant thunder in Washington is causing concern among Californians,” Lee said. “We want to make sure they know Covered California is stable, offering the same quality coverage in 2018 that we have offered since we opened our doors in 2014.”

News Reporter

News reporter for The Sentinel

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