OPINION – Thanks to President Obama, 2014 will be a watershed year for people who need health care. From this October 1 to March 31, 2014, people buying insurance for their families or a small business can enroll for competitively priced health plans through Covered California, the state health plan marketplace. Medi-Cal will also become available to most low-income adults.
As a physician and Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, I have worked to pass state laws to implement important health insurance reforms in Obamacare to ensure your health insurance will be there when you need it. You can no longer be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition or be charged higher rates just because you have an illness. Plans are required to provide comprehensive essential health benefits, and you will no longer have a co-pay for preventive care such as vaccines and birth control. There will be a cap on your annual out-of-pocket health care costs based on your income, and lifetime limits on coverage have been eliminated so your insurance won’t run out in the middle of treatment of a serious disease like cancer. Seniors will receive increased assistance paying for medications in Medicare.
However, to keep health insurance affordable when you or a family member becomes ill, federal law requires everyone to enroll and pay for health insurance. Low income families can enroll in Medi-Cal at no cost and there will be subsidies for families making less than 400% of poverty, or under $92,000 a year for a family of four, to purchase coverage on Covered California. If your employer already provides health insurance for your and your family, you can keep this insurance. There will be a financial penalty for not having health insurance.
Community organizations including the NAACP, the Black Health Network, and Sacramento Covered; insurance brokers; Sacramento County; and many others will be helping people enroll for the new health insurance programs. You can learn more about your health insurance options online from Covered California at CoveredCA.com or call 1-800-300-1506.
As a pediatrician who cares for Medi-Cal and uninsured children in Oak Park, I know what a difference having health insurance can make in people’s lives. California is a leader in expanding health care coverage to its residents, and I want Sacramento to lead in California. We have the opportunity to improve health and reduce costs in Sacramento by getting more people access to health care thereby increasing access to prevention and improving chronic disease care. Please join President Obama and me in this effort to build a Healthy Sacramento. Call my office at 916-262-0999 if you need help.
By Dr. Richard Pan
Assemblymember, 9th District