LOS ANGELES — Elaine Young spent 20 years teaching students with special needs in Los Angeles before she learned an important lesson — that her retirement benefits did not include health insurance.
“Because I worked six hours a day, my position was considered part time, and my 20 years was only equal to eight to 10 years full time,” Young, 62, recalled. While stunned by the revelation, Young was still determined to retire and put her health insurance issues “in God’s hands.”
Her prayers, she said, were answered last June when she enrolled in a health insurance plan through Covered California, the state agency that helps Californians get name-brand coverage through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — commonly known as Obamacare.
“I absolutely love it. And I would highly recommend it to anyone who does not have health insurance,” Young said.
The fourth open-enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act is underway and continues through Jan. 31. Californians like Young who need health insurance will find new ways to shop for coverage and new ways to save.
It’s this kind of information that Covered California is spreading statewide during its third annual bus tour. The tour will wind its way from San Diego to Northern California starting Nov. 12, stopping at 26 locations in 11 counties and 21 cities over eight days.
The message is clear, says Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee.
“California has built a robust marketplace where insurers are competing for consumers and where there is financial help to buy top-quality insurance.”
More than 92 percent of consumers will have three or more health plans to choose from, and none will have fewer than two, Lee said. He called out Los Angeles County, the Inland Empire, Sacramento County and the Bay Area as having large African-American populations who can benefit from increased coverage and services.
Young receives a subsidy that pays for all but $75 of the $500 monthly premium she would normally be charged.
“I didn’t lose any of my benefits,” said Young, whose coverage began in July after her school district-sponsored coverage expired in June. “There was no lapse in coverage. I’m still with Kaiser and I have my same doctor,” she said.
For 2017, most consumers can save up to $55 per urgent care visit and their copays for seeing their primary care doctor will also be lower.
And, for consumers selecting silver, gold or platinum plans, most of their outpatient services like primary care and specialist visits, lab tests, X-rays and imaging are not subject to a deductible. Emergency room visits for those plans are now a flat fee.
Even consumers in Covered California’s most affordable bronze plans are able to see their doctor or a specialist three times without having to meet their deductible.
These changes for 2017 can help consumers save thousands of dollars.
“We know health care is expensive, so we took steps to make sure consumers who do buy coverage get the care they need without having to first meet their full deductible,” Lee said.
Approximately 1.4 million people, about 2.5 percent whom are African American, now have coverage through Covered California. Meanwhile, tens of thousands more African-Americans in California remain uninsured, yet most are eligible for thousands of dollars in federal subsidies to help them pay their monthly premiums.
Visit CoveredCA.com to find Covered California enrollment centers.