REGION — All Californians are required to have healthcare coverage. Those who do not sign up for healthcare by the extended March 31 deadline will face a penalty charge for failing to have health insurance.
For those who still have questions about healthcare plans, North County Health Services (NCHS) is a Covered California certified enrollment provider, and offers free assistance with online healthcare enrollment.
NCHS was at Oceanside Civic Center Library Feb. 26, where 50 people were lined up for healthcare signup assistance within the first two hours.
The service allows people to sit down one on one with a program resource specialist to answer questions about family size, income and health needs, in order to choose the best Covered California healthcare plan, which offers state financial assistance.
It also helps people weigh the pros and cons of keeping their existing healthcare insurance or signing up for a policy under Covered California.
Covered California policies are minimum coverage health plans geared for individuals age 30 and under, and those earning low to medium incomes.
Policies cover doctor visits, preventative care, hospital care, emergency care, care for pregnant women, children and infants and prescription drugs.
Children also receive vision and dental care.
Cheryl McMahen, North County Health Services outreach coordinator, said preventative care is an important benefit of Covered California policies that allows patients to identify and treat chromic diseases early.
“Patients can connect and come in more often,” McMahen said.
“More people are going to be healthier.”
Income perimeters for Covered California healthcare plans are $35,325 to $94,200 annually for a family of four, or $17,235 to $45,960 for an individual.
“Family size and income determine how much assistance you are eligible for,” McMahen said. “Basically the less you make the more assistance you receive.”
State assistance can lower the monthly premium of healthcare costs to $1 a month in some cases.
Policy choices are platinum, gold, silver or bronze level coverage through six Covered California healthcare providers within the San Diego region.
Platinum coverage charges patients the highest monthly premium and 10 percent out of pocket costs for services.
At the other end of the scale, bronze coverage charges patients the lowest monthly premium and 40 percent costs for services. Gold and silver levels fall in between.
McMahen said, as a rule of thumb, people who are healthy and only need wellness services usually select a bronze plan option.
People who have a chronic condition and need regular treatments and medication usually select a platinum plan option.
“For someone with a chronic condition the higher plan is a better fit,” McMahen said.
McMahen added people who have an established relationship with a doctor might want to check on which policies their doctor accepts.
Some families and individuals may qualify for free Medi-Cal coverage based on income, family size and age.
Families of four with an annual income of under $32,000, and individuals earning less than $15,860 qualify for Medi-Cal.
Upcoming Covered California sign up assistance will be held March 18 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Carlsbad Library, 3368 Eureka Place in Carlsbad, and March 24 from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive in Encinitas. For more information, call NCHS at (760) 736-8718.