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Health Insurance Sign-Ups Through Covered California Nearly Triple

A flyer at the Family Health Centers of San Diego clinic in southeast San Die...

Photo by Tarryn Mento

Above: A flyer at the Family Health Centers of San Diego clinic in southeast San Diego advertises Medi-Cal enrollment assistance to uninsured patients but features a now-outdated list of requirements that include legal California residency, Dec. 31, 2019.

California on Tuesday reported a jump in residents enrolling in government-subsidized health insurance.

State officials announced just more than 58,000 Californians have signed up through Covered California over the last three weeks — almost three times the amount compared to this time last year.

Officials extended the enrollment period from January to June to help people gain access during the global coronavirus outbreak. Since that time, 58,400 Californians applied for a subsidized plan from private insurers or qualified for publicly funded Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program.

The state is also trying to make it easier for people who are on Medi-Cal to keep their coverage.

The Department of Health Care Services requires the state's 13 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries to prove annually they still need coverage, which can burden recipients with paperwork and tie up employees with verifying hundreds of thousands of cases each month.

Director Dr. Bradley Gilbert said the agency suspended that requirement for 90 days.

"No one will be removed from their eligibility, which, as you can imagine right now, is so critical to keep people having their medical coverage. And it allows the county workers who do the eligibility to focus on new applications," said Gilbert, who was appointed to the job just days after California confirmed its first coronavirus cases.

The agency is also expanding access to telehealth for Medi-Cal patients. This will allow low-income residents to get the care they need from the safety of home.

The federal government must still approve covering telehealth-only visits, but Gilbert said the state is moving forward because he is confident the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will later OK the move.

Previously health clinics that serve a large portion of Medi-Cal patients were concerned they couldn't charge for telehealth appointments during the public health emergency.

Listen to this story by Tarryn Mento.


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Photo of Tarryn Mento

Tarryn Mento
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksThe health beat is about more than just illness, medicine and hospitals. I examine what impacts the wellness of humans and their communities.

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