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California health insurance agency advised to increase coverage, accessibility

By Milan Mohanty

Feb. 3, 2019 11:22 p.m.

A UCLA report recommended California’s health insurance agency expand its coverage and make insurance more affordable.

The report, which was published Friday and co-written by Wes Yin, an associate professor of public policy, analyzed policy options that could improve market stability and affordability of health insurance.

Covered California is the state’s health insurance marketplace for finding and enrolling in private health coverage at federally subsidized rates.

The report said Covered California should limit out-of-pocket premiums and expand cost-sharing benefits to make health insurance more affordable

Premium costs can greatly differ based on consumer age and geographic location, the report said. It added premium costs of even the most common benefit package can be more than 30 percent of residents’ income for those nearing retirement age and living in expensive regions.

The report said the state could use subsidies to limit premium payments to 15 percent of the residents’ annual income. Subsidies are currently offered to those who earn up to $103,000 for a family of four or up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

It added that the state insurance program should form a penalty for those who choose to not enroll in coverage in California.

The number of California residents enrolled in health insurance stayed roughly the same from 2018 to 2019 at about 1.5 million residents, according to figures from Covered California. However, the percentage of new enrollees dropped by 23.7 percent.

Covered California attributed the decline in new enrollments to the removal of a federally mandated penalty for those who opt out of health insurance.

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