Category Archives: Open Enrollment

Open Enrollment season for California health insurance public exchange, Covered California. Important deadlines, what you need to know to preserve your open enrollment options for affordable healthcare coverage.

Breaking News: COBRA Coverage California Open Enrollment May 15 – July 15

Beginning Thursday, May 15, Covered California will launch a limited-time special-enrollment period for people who have COBRA health insurance, either Federal COBRA or Cal-COBRA (COBRA Coverage California), and would like to switch to an exchange plan.

People who have health coverage through COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) will be eligible to shop for and buy coverage through Covered California from May 15 through July 15, including local assistance from Certified Insurance Agents, at no additional charge.  The two-month window mirrors a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ruling announced May 2 that allows COBRA enrollees to buy plans through the federal exchange up to July 1.

Read the full press release here or jump ahead for a Rate Quote, right now!

Coverage California ACA Buyer Guide: Covered California

The Regular Open Enrollment (2015) is Complete, but the 2016 Open Enrollment begins November 1st

By Marc Derendinger  

The purpose of this Coverage California Buyer Guide is to help individuals, families, and early retirees take full advantage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Open Enrollment and Special Enrollment seasons, and avoid mistakes that could cost you money and opportunity under Covered California (Obamacare) and the private market.  This is a good reference article, so retain it until you need it.

Remember, Open Enrollment begins November 1st, but you may qualify to enroll sooner under a Qualifying Event Special Enrollment provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  We published an introductory article about Special Enrollments here.

Buyer beware, because changes are coming to certain PPO networks.  If you did not use a Certified Agent last year, now is a good time to find one…they are a free service of Covered California and the good ones can help guide you through the network provider “game of hide & seek” that is being played by California health insurance companies, at the expense of California residents.

Health plans take on a new design structure, with new metallic” plans. (If you already know about metal plans and want to skip ahead to more advanced topics in this series, click here)

Unless you are insulated from all these changes through your participation in a Grandfathered plan, by 2014-2016 you will start to see insurance talk about “metals,” including Kaiser members (for more information on Obamacare vs. Kaiser, Click Here.)   For example, Bronze plans cover an average of 60% of costs, meaning that, on average, you will be responsible for paying 40% of your health care costs.  Also, most services covered by the Bronze plan are subject to a deductible or amount you must pay out-of-pocket before the plan will cover costs.

Download a PDF of the Metallic plans here:  CoveredCA Health Plan Benefits Summary

While the Bronze plan has the cheapest monthly premium, Silver Plans provide a lower risk of out-of-pocket costs, making it a better value for most people. Silver 70 plans cover an average of 70% of costs, meaning that, on average, you will be responsible for 30% of your healthcare costs.  Most common covered services under the Enhanced Silver Plan do not have a deductible.

The higher the metal value, the higher the value of benefits covered under the plan.  Hence, Gold plans expect to cover an average of 80% of the cost of medical services and Platinum, an average of 90%.  Higher benefits also lead to higher premiums, so talk to a certified professional to analyze all your options.  Under California law, only Certified Insurance Agents can compare your options under Medi-Cal vs. Covered California public exchanges vs. private market plans.  There is no added cost when you use these experts.

Insurers Will Battle Within Metal Tiers

If you are looking to benefit from lower prices in a new competitive market, I suggest starting with the Silver Tier, where five insurance companies (in Santa Clara County) compete for your business (see our Obamacare Rate Guide for examples).  Since they offer similar plans within the metal tier, companies are forced to compete on price and provider network.

For additional employer requirements under the Affordable Care Act legislation click here.  For rate comparisons of new group health plans, click here.  For non-group e.g. individual family plans click this link.

Got questions? Frustrated with the Affordable Care Act?  Life’s too short to waste time with all this:  Request free consumer assistance from Certified Insurance Agents, below:

Editor’s Note:  Marc Derendinger has 30-years experience in the California health insurance marketplace and serves on the agent advisory group for the State of California Department of Healthcare Services California Partnership for Long-term Care.  His insurance brokerage is located in San Jose and advises many well-known organizations e.g. San Jose Police Officers’ Association, City of Campbell, City of Santa Clara, plus individuals and family businesses throughout Northern California.California License No. 0563986






An Early Look At California’s New Health Insurance ObamaCare Marketplace

October 2013 marks a milestone in the implementation of ObamaCare national health care reform, as a new California public healthcare exchange kicks off its first open enrollment season. We have been monitoring preparations for this event, and offer a sneak preview of coverage in California’s new health insurance marketplace.

Reacting quickly to new federal law (ObamaCare) and guidelines, California is the first state to implement its version of the public health benefit exchange system, named “Covered California.”

What is a Health Benefit Exchange?

CoveredCA Health Plan Benefits Summary

“It is a new insurance marketplace in which individuals and small businesses will be able to purchase competitively priced health plans using ObamaCare federal tax subsidies and credits beginning in 2014,” according to Covered California Director Michael Lujan.  Also see

After attending meetings and listening to new Covered-CA Director Michael Lujan, I have accumulated a personal stack of Post-its, which I find particularly interesting, and I hope you do, too:

Facts & Features of the Covered California Health Benefit Exchange

  • There will be separate exchanges for individuals and small business.
  • Medical questions will not be asked; all will be accepted.
  • Financial questions will be asked only to qualify you for possible subsidies.
  • Applicants must be U.S. citizens or otherwise “legally present.”
  • The private insurance market will continue to exist and compete with public exchanges.
  • Rates & Information can be obtained through certified Assistors and Agents (e.g. Derendinger Insurance).
  • An Assistor is limited to providing information on Covered California quotes, whereas a certified agent may provide Covered California quotes as well as quotes from competing private health benefit exchanges and even individual insurers e.g. Kaiser, Aetna. (See updated story on Aetna) Also, a certified Agent can provide ongoing claims assistance and other service issues.
  • There is no extra cost to consumers for using the services of an Assistor vs. a certified Agent.
  • Open Enrollment is expected to begin in October, with coverage effective January 1st.
  • There are four enrollment methods:  Paper, Phone, Fax, or Web.
  • Public exchanges will limit plans to four categories, Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze, which must line up with a coverage value of 90%, 80%, 70%, and 60%, respectively.
  • Participating insurance companies will develop new plans to fit into these “metallic” categories.
  • Rates will be updated this summer.
  • Rate Bands will vary according to one-year brackets, versus the current 5 or 10 year brackets.
  • There may be no greater than a three to one ratio from the most expensive to least expensive age band.  (This should present some challenges to the status quo, in my opinion.)

Is The Health Benefit Exchange Marketplace Good for California Consumers?

Paraphrasing Alan Katz, a long-time health industry observer:  “The new Covered California Health Benefit Exchange is not going to be as good as some people hope for, yet it is not going to be as bad as others fear.”  In between these lines lies the potential of this reform, which include guaranteed medical plans for early retirees, hope for families burdened with pre-existing medical conditions, and affordable healthcare plans for 7 million* uninsured Californians. *California Healthcare Foundation (December 2012)

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Editor’s Note:  The Derendinger insurance agency has served the California insurance market for 54 years.  Marc can be reached at (408) 252-7300.  You may find more information at