County Pulse

County government and health issues in Central Valley

Covered California offers enrollment opportunity for people with COBRA coverage

05/16/2014 6:02 PM

05/16/2014 10:21 PM

The Covered California health exchange has opened the door for people with COBRA insurance to consider enrolling in lower-cost health plans subsidized through the Affordable Care Act.

Those who lose their jobs often rely on extended health benefits from their former employer through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act to cover medical costs while looking for another job.

The last grace period for enrolling in Obamacare insurance closed in April, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services decided to open a window for people with COBRA benefits. Covered California started assisting those customers Thursday and will extend the offer through July 15.

Health and Human Services said it was only fair to create the special enrollment after confusing information about COBRA beneficiaries’ options was released when the new insurance marketplaces opened last fall.

Covered California’s executive director, Peter Lee, said in a news release Thursday that the government-backed health plans may be a better option than COBRA by offering assistance to reduce monthly premiums and co-payments. Eligible consumers should be able to cut their costs by thousands of dollars over a year, Lee said.

Covered California has agreements with Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Health Net and Kaiser Permanente to offer health plans in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties.

Exchange health plans can have higher deductibles than standard employer benefits and more narrow physician and provider networks. Making the switch could mean changing doctors. Applicants should find out if their physicians accept the health plan being considered.

No one can guarantee a seamless transition from COBRA to Affordable Care Act insurance. During health reform’s enrollment push from Oct. 1 to March 31, the media and Covered California’s Facebook page was filled with complaints about computer glitches, application backlogs and delays in getting insured. To apply, select “Special enrollment” at or call (800) 300-1506.

Changing care models

With many recent changes in health care, Dr. Del Morris has worked on a new model for patient care in Stanislaus County’s health clinics and will broaden the scope of that work as the new president of the California Academy of Family Physicians.

Morris, medical director of the county’s Health Services Agency, took over the reins of the 8,700-member association this week. He will lead its initiative to change how care is delivered in physician offices and clinics in California, which are expected to see growing numbers of patients as a result of national health reform.

New models of care move away from one-on-one visits with a doctor to meet every patient need. Morris has said physician-led care teams can effectively manage illness, and the group is addressing rural areas’ shortage of primary care physicians.

About This Blog

The Bee's Ken Carlson writes about county government and health issues in the Central Valley.

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