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Californians Have More Time to Sign Up for Health Insurance

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The Covered California website is displayed during a healthcare enrollment fair at the office of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West in San Franciscoin this March 18, 2014 file photo. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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You may have heard that the last day to sign up for an individual health insurance plan through HealthCare.Gov is Saturday, Dec. 15. That's true, but Californians have a month longer.

Here are the Covered California deadlines:

  • Dec. 21 is the last day to sign up if you want coverage to start on Jan. 1, 2019. (This has been extended from Dec. 15)
  • Jan. 15 is when open enrollment ends. If you buy a health plan between Dec. 16 and Jan. 15, that coverage will start Feb. 1.

EXTENSION

Covered California extended its early deadline. Now, Californians have an extra week -- until Dec. 21 -- to sign up for coverage that starts Jan. 1, 2019. The state updated the cut-off after a Texas judge ruled that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. Officials were concerned that news might confuse consumers.

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The judge's decision will be appealed and nothing changes, for now. Coverage in 2019 is unaffected.

Meanwhile, legal analysts across the political spectrum say the Texas ruling could very well be overturned on appeal. They say the judge's reasoning doesn't make sense. He ruled Obamacare could not stand since the 2017 GOP tax law did away with the fine for not having health insurance.

WHY THE DIFFERENCE?

California went all-in on the Affordable Care Act after its passage, and that's reflected in the length of Covered California's open enrollment period, which runs for three months. That's twice as long as the six-week period to buy an individual policy through the federal marketplace, HealthCare.Gov, in the 38 states that don't run their own health insurance marketplace.

Covered California also spends liberally to get the word out. It's spending more than $100 million a year on marketing and outreach to make sure Californians know when and how to sign up.

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The Golden State's approach is in direct contrast to the Trump administration's. In 2017, the feds cut the advertising budget for HealthCare.gov by 90 percent. Critics say the shorter open enrollment period and the diminished advertising budget show the Trump administration is sabotaging the Affordable Care Act.

Covered California officials say signups are ahead of the pace of two years ago - that was the last time the agency had to delay its marketing push because of an election.

You can learn about California's pushbacks against federal changes to Obamacare here.

UPDATES:

3:40 p.m.: This article was updated with the new due date

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This article was originally published on Dec 11.


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