Tom Schrette and Alan Cash

Tom Schrette and Alan Cash

Dear Tom and Alan: I’m 29, single, and lost my job (and health insurance) toward the end of last year.

I haven’t had any kind of coverage since then even though my parents are driving me crazy about it. I don’t have a permanent job lined up so my income is low because of temporary jobs here and there.

Are there any cheap plans out there? Is there a penalty for not having insurance?

I understand some people get a subsidy to help pay for health insurance.

Can I get some of that?


Tom: Ben, thank you for your letter and good luck with your job search.

My first recommendation is to go to either the Health and Human Services (HHS) office near the DMV building or to OLE Health near Cinemark.

You may very well qualify for Medi-Cal, which is specifically for people with limited incomes. If you qualify, you’ll probably pay zero until your income increases again.

Second, there is no individual mandate to have health insurance this year. Governor Newsom is working to get it reinstated for California beginning 2020, but it’s not in place now.

Third, Covered California is ready to continue the income-based subsidies established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare). However, if you are on Medi-Cal, this is not a concern until or unless they kick you off.

Al: Open enrollment into Covered California is expected to begin sometime in October this year and end in January 2020. For 2019, it ended Jan. 15.

On July 9, Covered California sent out an “Agent Alert” letting us know that the average rate change for next year’s individual market will be 0.8 percent. This is the lowest rate change since it all started in 2014.

Tom: There are two major components that fuel this optimism: restoring the individual mandate and raising the percentage over the basic Federal Poverty Level (FPL) that an individual can earn and still qualify for a subsidy.

Currently, individuals and families earning up to 400 percent of the FPL can qualify for a subsidy to help pay the premium. The projected increase for 2020 is up to 600 percent over the FPL.

Al: My tagline for the ACA was “a government-run program enforced by the IRS, what could possibly go wrong?”

In this case, the mandate “…will be administered by the California Franchise Tax Board.”

We don’t know yet what the penalty will be for someone in California who does not enroll next year, but they are talking about up to $2,100 per family.

Tom: Anthem Blue Cross, who bailed on the individual market in California is supposed to be returning. However, it will only be in parts of the Central Valley, Los Angeles County, the Inland Empire and the Central Coast.

It looks like our local plans will remain Kaiser, Western Health Advantage, Blue Shield and Health Net. The 0.8 percent increase is a statewide average, so our numbers could be different.

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Submit questions to schrette@gmail.com or alancash@gmail.com.