OpEd: A chance to get low-cost health insurance

Monday, January 18, 2016

By Senator Connie M. Leyva

San Bernardino Sun

Heidy’s dad suffered from apnea, high blood pressure and other serious health conditions — none of which he had been able to address because he and his family lacked health insurance. As a state senator, it is painful to hear that hardworking Californians — like Heidy and her dad — could go without health coverage simply because it costs too much. Heidy’s dad tried for years to get health coverage but was unable to afford treatment for his health conditions because he had to cover basic family costs such as housing, food and other day-to-day necessities. Luckily, Heidy and her dad were finally able to get affordable health coverage through Covered California.

“My family was excited when we obtained it and we cannot wait to make our first doctor’s appointment,” said Heidy. “It has also allowed me to feel more secure.” Her father is now finally being treated for his health conditions and the low costs have allowed Heidy to finish her bachelor’s degree.

We have all heard the disheartening stories about Californians who were denied health insurance because of a “pre-existing” condition or who were dropped from their insurance because of a serious illness. Many of us even know people who have to choose between seeking medical care and getting medications or paying for food or another life necessity. Fortunately, when President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2009 — also known as Obamacare — these stories became less common.

Now, under the law, you cannot be denied insurance because of a pre-existing health condition nor can you be dropped from your insurance because you get sick. More importantly, insurance is more affordable than ever. When the Affordable Care Act passed in 2009, it created a subsidy for both individuals and families which makes health coverage more affordable. The only information you need to get an estimate and see your health insurance options are your household income, zip code, and the ages of those you are enrolling. For example, a single mom with two kids living in Fontana and making $30,000 a year could get $149 a month to help pay for health insurance — with multiple plans to choose from.

But why should you get health insurance? Let me offer three important reasons:

First, the Affordable Care Act requires everyone to have health insurance. Those who can afford health insurance, but choose to go without it, could pay penalties of at least $695 per adult and $347.50 per child this year.

Second, health insurance covers many of the costs of preventive care and visits to the doctor’s office. There is no co-pay for preventive care and your first three visits each year to a primary care doctor, specialist or urgent care will not be subject to the deductible.

Third, health insurance provides an important safety net in case something unexpected happens. Not only does it provide better access to health care, but it also limits the amount that health care will cost. The Bronze and Silver plans available through Covered California will cover, on average, 60 percent to 70 percent of health care costs respectively and have a cap on the amount of out-of-pocket costs per year.

Jan. 31 — the last day of the open enrollment period for Covered California — is just days away. Beyond having the opportunity to sign up for health insurance coverage and potentially qualify for a subsidized premium during this period, you can also sign up or change your insurance during the year if a life-changing event occurs, such as getting married, having a child or even moving.

If you are interested in signing up for health insurance, have questions, or would simply like help navigating the process, please call my district office at 909-591-7016 to sign up to attend one of our Covered California enrollment events on Saturday, Jan. 23 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at:

• Fontana Lewis Library, 8437 Sierra Ave.; Fontana, or

• Inland Empire Job Corps, 3173 Kerry St.; San Bernardino.

State Sen. Connie M. Leyva, D-Chino, represents the 20th Senate District.