Nearly 2.2 million Americans — including about 500,000 Californians — have signed up for health care during the first three months of open enrollment, according to data released last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Covered California, the state’s marketplace for the Affordable Care Act, plans to release more specific enrollment data later this month, including enrollments by region.
Covered California has divided the state into 19 regions, with Napa County belonging to Region 2 (along with Sonoma, Solano and Marin counties).
In mid-December, Covered California reported that approximately 5,250 individuals from Region 2 had enrolled in health care plans, which reflected about 5 percent of the statewide enrollment.
While the state has not released enrollment data by county, health officials from Napa County say they have helped hundreds of residents apply for coverage.
Napa County Health and Human Services has had a “steady stream” of people seeking help with applications. Since October, the department has assisted more than 300 people with applying for Covered California, said Lynn Perez, deputy director for Social Services. The department has also hired and trained six additional staff members to help process applications, Perez said.
Meanwhile, at Clinic Ole, three enrollment counselors are handling between eight and 14 appointments per day to help people apply for coverage.
From Sept. 1 through Dec. 31, 213 people have been to Clinic Ole to apply for plans through Covered California. An additional 424 people have submitted Medi-Cal applications.
Local officials previously estimated that 21,000 Napa County residents did not have health insurance, but many would not be eligible under the Affordable Care Act because they are undocumented.
The Affordable Care Act expands Medi-Cal in California to include all eligible residents who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level — that’s equal to $15,415 for individuals and $31,810 for a family of four.
On Jan. 1, an estimated 6,000 Napa County residents became newly eligible for Medi-Cal or qualified for tax subsidies under Covered California.
Initially, due to website problems, enrollment counselors were relying on paper applications to help people enroll, but the website issues have been resolved, according to Clinic Ole.
“Currently, the website is very user friendly and allows us to be more efficient,” said Bianca Encinas, Clinic Ole’s marketing communication specialist.
According to Covered California, applications must be submitted by the 15th of each month for coverage to begin on the first day of the following month.
For example, those who enrolled in a health insurance plan by Jan. 15 will have coverage beginning Feb. 1 if they pay their share of the premium. People who enrolled and whose payment had been received Jan. 16 will have coverage beginning March 1.
The last day to enroll for coverage this year is March 31.
The Affordable Care Act requires almost every American to have health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. The federal penalties for not having health insurance will be phased in over three years and will become “increasingly severe,” according to Covered California.
In 2014, an individual who does not maintain minimum health coverage will face a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater. Families with children will face an additional charge of $47.50 per uncovered child (up to $285 for a family). There are exceptions to the penalties, including people experiencing special financial hardships and people who qualify for religious exemptions.