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Covered CA: Enrollment Opens, Consumer Advocates Praise Progress

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SACRAMENTO – Legislation passed this session includes bills to change the income threshold to allow more lower-income seniors to qualify for Medi-Cal.

This has been a banner year for making health care more accessible and affordable in California, according to consumer and health advocacy groups.

The open enrollment period for CoveredCA, which started this week, was expanded significantly – so people can now sign up for subsidized coverage on the individual market through end of January.

The state also expanded Medi-Cal to all low-income people under age 26, regardless of immigration status.

Xiomara Pena, California deputy director and national Latino outreach manager for the organization Small Business Majority, says the state also increased subsidies for people in the middle class, a group that includes many small business owners.

“These are evident wins for the small business community, because these new measures do hold the potential to both reduce costs for small businesses and to ensure that more people are able to access affordable health insurance,” she points out.

The state also ended the so-called senior penalty, slightly raising the income levels for low-income seniors and people with disabilities so that more can qualify for Medi-Cal.

A coalition of health and consumer groups known as Care4All California is thanking Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing a bill to enact a state-based mandate to carry health insurance, since the federal penalty is no longer in effect.

Linda Nguy, policy advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, praises a new bill to require better data sharing and implicit bias training for health care providers, in order to reduce the mortality rates for black women in childbirth.

“We’ve seen in California that, while the state has drastically decreased maternal mortality, for black women, the maternal mortality rates remain three to four times higher than for other women,” she states.

Consumer advocates note that despite this year’s progress, 2.9 million Californians still lack health insurance, so future efforts will focus on lowering costs and expanding access even further.

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