Californians must have health insurance under new 2020 law or face fines, state officials warn

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(Image courtesy Penn Medicine)

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — As a new year approaches, officials are reminding Californians that a new state law will take effect on January 1 requiring all Californians to have health insurance in 2020 — or face fines.

“Open enrollment is underway right now. That means now is the time to sign up for a quality health plan through Covered California so you are protected in case you get sick or injured, and so you do not have to worry about a possible penalty,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee.

California’s open-enrollment period continues through Jan. 31.

The state created an individual mandate penalty that will be enforced by the Franchise Tax Board, and collected when people file their taxes.

“It’s important that everyone acts now to get health insurance starting in January 2020 to avoid the penalty when filing state tax returns in 2021,” said FTB Executive Officer Selvi Stanislaus.

The fines could cost you thousands of dollars. For example, a family of four would by fined at least $2,000 for not having health insurance throughout 2020.

Being slapped with a fine is not the biggest consequence Californians will suffer if they fail to obtain insurance, officials said.

“Writing a check to the Franchise Tax Board when you file your 2020 taxes isn’t the real penalty — it’s getting hurt or ill and ending up with $50,000 hospital bill,” Lee said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom reiterated his support of the Affordable Care Act and touted its positive impact.

“The Affordable Care Act is alive and well here in the state of California,” Newsom said. “We are saving lives, we’re expanding coverage, we’re deepening subsidies, and we’re doubling down on our commitment to fulfill the law’s promise and its potential.”

Financial Help

California is making new financial help available to help lower the cost of coverage. On average, people between 200 – 400 percent of the federal poverty level will receive $21 per household, per month on top of their federal tax credits. People who earn between 400 and 600 percent of the federal poverty level will be receiving an average of $460 per household, per month.

More than half a million Californians have already found out they will benefit from this new money, Lee said.

You have through the end of January to see what plans are available to you, and whether you qualify for financial help from the federal government, the state, or both.

“We do not want people to miss out on this opportunity. We don’t want them to get stuck with a big bill when they pay their taxes in 2021,” Lee said.

Recent Court Ruling

California’s individual mandate and penalty remains in place as state leaders prepare to respond to the recent ruling by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Last week, the panel ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional, but remanded the case to a lower court.

“The court ruling will not impact California and should not deter anyone from signing up during the current open-enrollment period,” Lee said. “The legal battle will continue for the foreseeable future.”

Getting Help Enrolling

Consumers can find out if they are eligible for financial help and see which plans are available in their area by entering their ZIP code, household income and the ages of those who need coverage into Covered California’s Shop and Compare Tool.

Those interested in learning more about their coverage options can:

Other New Health Laws for 2020

SB 142 – Employers must provide new mothers with breaks for nursing, clean and safe lactation rooms, as well as access to a sink and refrigerator.

SB 83 – The law extends paid leave to eight weeks for people taking care of a seriously ill family member or to bond with a baby.

SB 8 – Bans smoking at all state beaches and parks.

SB 106 – Provides the appropriations for the state subsidy program, along with income eligibility and specified funding allocation by eligibility levels.

SB 78 – Establishes the individual mandate and penalty, as well as the requirements for the state subsidy program.

AB 1309 – Expands the individual market open-enrollment period to Nov. 1 to Jan. 31. It sets Feb. 1 as the effectuation date for those who enroll between Dec. 16 and Jan. 31. This will give consumers additional time to sign up for coverage, thereby helping more Californians to become insured.

AB 5 – Limits California companies’ use of workers as independent contractors rather than as employees. This bill may affect the provision of health insurance to these employees. 

SB 104 – Authorizes the provision of full-scope Medi-Cal to adults aged 19-25 regardless of their immigration status.

SB 276 – Standardized the provision of medical exemptions for vaccination by requiring the California Department of Public Health to develop a statewide electronic request form, tracking school immunization levels and addressing physicians who submit an unusually high number of medical exemption forms.

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