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    Marching Toward Universal Healthcare with Subsidies

    By Assemblymember Phil Ting–

    If you are fortunate enough to have health insurance through your employer, you probably filled out your forms recently, allowing you to adjust or continue your coverage for next year. But over seven percent of Californians, or 2.7 million, are still uninsured, despite big gains made under the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA).

    While 93% of our residents have health coverage, we need everybody to be insured. To move the needle toward universal healthcare, the state is offering financial assistance for the first time to help middle-income residents afford health insurance through Covered California, the state’s marketplace for health plans. In fact, we’re the first state in the country to extend subsidies to this group. This benefits people who don’t qualify for existing federal subsidies or government programs because they exceed income limits; yet they don’t make enough to comfortably afford insurance on their own.

    Through the budget process, the Legislature allocated $429 million to help individuals who earn $50,000 to $70,000 a year; or up to $154,500 for a family of four. We estimate nearly a quarter-million Californians fall into this category. New state subsidies for them will average $170 a month—welcome relief from paying the entire cost of premiums, which often top $1,000 a month.

    Another 663,000 low to moderate-income Californians already receiving federal help will also qualify for the new state subsidy. With the future of federal subsidies unclear since the Trump Administration has been trying to sabotage the ACA, additional support for our most vulnerable residents is critical. California is determined to push forward and leave nobody behind.

    A thriving health insurance market only works when everyone is in it, both sick and healthy people. That helps prevent premiums from rising. Otherwise, those without insurance tend to use the emergency room where services are more expensive. The uninsured are also more likely forego preventative care, which is key to catching ailments early when they’re cheaper to treat, compared to later stages. The higher cost of care for a few consequently drives up the price of insurance for all.

    To ensure premiums stay reasonable, California will begin to mandate health coverage, beginning in 2020. (Note that there is no longer a federal mandate to carry health insurance.) Again, we cannot just have sick people in the insurance pool. The Franchise Tax Board will be responsible for enforcing the cost of not having insurance: $695 per adult; half that per child; or 2.5% of annual household income, whichever is higher.

    The good news is there’s still time to sign up! Open enrollment to buy your own health insurance is underway at the Covered California website ( https://www.coveredca.com/ ). The deadline is January 31st, however, if you sign up by December 15, your coverage will take effect at the beginning of 2020.

    We’re hoping that the state subsidies and individual mandate will bring us closer to having 100% of Californians insured. Once the state Legislature reconvenes in January, I’m committed to continuing our work to achieve universal healthcare.

    Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the Westside of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma, and Daly City.

    Published on November 28, 2019