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California health insurance is expanding, but the deadline to join is fast approaching

People walk through San Francisco General Hospital. | Gabrielle Lurie / The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Say what you will about the U.S. healthcare system, but one thing is clear—going without health insurance has disastrous consequences. 

Those without it tend to access worse medical care than those insured. And for those that do access care without insurance in the event of a medical emergency, the costs can be astronomical.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, most uninsured people blame the high cost of insurance as the main reason they aren’t covered. People of color are also at a higher risk of being uninsured, and 70.2% of uninsured households have one or more persons who work a full-time job. 

The latest U.S. Census data estimates that nearly 28 million people in the country are uninsured—10 million less since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare” was launched in 2014. 

Since then, California has been steadily expanding the federal health insurance law to provide lower-cost health care commonly referred to as “Medi-Cal” to residents, via its marketplace Covered California

All state residents, including undocumented immigrants, are eligible to apply for and receive discounted health insurance through the state. Depending on your income and tax records, premiums can go for as low as $0. 

The deadline to enroll for the calendar year 2023 is Jan. 31.

READ MORE: How To Enroll for Discounted Health Insurance via Covered California

Expanded Coverage, but Emergency Protections Ending?

Pedestrians and healthcare workers walk past Langley Porter Institute at UCSF Parnassus Medical Center. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

In January, the California Department of Health Care Services announced that it had negotiated with five commercial health plans to provide Medi-Cal services starting in 2024. Previously, there had been only three. 

The plans now include: Blue Cross of California (Anthem), Blue Shield of California, Community Health Group, Health Net and Molina Healthcare of California. 

At the height of the pandemic in 2020, the federal government also passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which prohibited states from disenrolling people from Medicaid until the month after the Covid public health emergency ends. 

According to recent reports, the Biden administration is targeting an end to that emergency designation by as early as April. 

In addition, when the American Rescue Plan passed in 2021, it also expanded eligibility and federal funding to the ACA.