Covered California announced Friday the deadline to sign up for health insurance that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, has been extended to Dec. 20, according to Covered California spokesperson James Scullary. 

The initial deadline was Dec. 15, but due to Covered California’s expectation that many people wait till the last minute to sign up, the extension was done to avoid a build-up of applications right before the deadline.

If people miss the Dec. 20 deadline, they have till Jan. 31 to sign up and have their plan go into effect on Feb. 1, Scullary said. 

Folks can sign up to get coverage or change their plan through a number of avenues. Eric Lewis, a health insurance agent with David Ernstam Financial and Insurance Services Inc., in Yuba City, said some of those options include signing up online with Anthem or Blue Shield, using a private agency, or through Covered California, either online or over the phone. 

“In 2020, if you go without coverage for more than three months there will be a state penalty,” Lewis said via email. 

The penalties will take effect when people file their state income tax returns for 2020 in 2021. According to the California Franchise Tax Board website, an individual making less than $45,500 may pay up to a $695 penalty. A married couple making less than $91,000 may pay up to $1,390. A family of four making less than $140,000 may pay up to approximately $2,000 in penalties. 

Exemptions can be claimed on a state income tax return when filing for 2020 for circumstances such as hardship or low income. Hardships can include being recently homeless, evicted, been the victim of domestic violence or experienced a death of a family member. Exemptions can also be filed through Covered California via an application. A full list and explanation of all exemptions can be found on Covered California’s website. 

Lewis said the first step someone should take before signing up for coverage is to determine 2020 modified adjusted gross income. 

“Without that, no one can really start helping them,” Lewis said. 

In addition, Lewis suggested people have their Social Security number on hand and the date of birth for all family members that will be included on a plan. 

“This will make the process faster and smoother during their initial enrollment,” Lewis said. 

Dan Blank is a health insurance agent with Financial Insurance Services in Marysville. He said not submitting an accurate projected adjusted gross income could affect the tax credit a person receives in 2021. Overestimating income for 2020 is “not a terrible thing” he said, but underestimating will lead to an individual receiving too much of a tax credit and then owing the government. 

“Make sure the system works for you,” Blank said. 

Consumers who have an unexpected increase in income during the course of 2020 have 30 days from the event to notify their agent or Covered California so the change is included when filing state income tax returns for 2020, Blank said. 

For those currently without coverage, Blank said people should look into the plans that are available based on their expected income because the cost may not be as bad as people think.

“It surprises a lot of people how reasonable the cost is,” Blank said. 

Recommended for you