California opens enrollment for its health insurance exchanges

Covered California open enrollment begins. What to know about signing up, subsidies and more.

A look at the open enrollment website as it opens in California. (Image: CBS/AP)

Get ready to sign up.

California is opening up enrollment for its health insurance exchange on Wednesday, and that means the program’s enrollment period will begin on Nov. 15.

California’s application is open for enrollment through Nov. 15 and the state will use a competitive bidding process to select a provider.

But the process is very different from the one federal exchange officials are using, which will begin Oct. 1.

Here’s what you need to know about the process beginning at noon Wednesday, when the enrollment period opens online.

Health insurance premium subsidies

Federal law requires most Americans who make less than four times the poverty level – $94,200 for an individual or $228,400 for a family of four – to buy their health insurance in the exchanges. That’s about 60 million people nationwide.

The program is open only to people from that group or families with incomes of up to about $80,200 for a family of four. But if you’re between $20,600 and $24,200 a year above the income threshold and buy insurance through an exchange, you are eligible to receive premium tax credits of up to $2,000 a year for your higher-priced plans, according to the federal law.

For instance, a family making $84,600 a year – the threshold for the program – can get up to $2,000 from subsidies if the person buying insurance at the exchange buys his or her plans, even if he or she or her plan costs more than the program’s $5,250 limit.

But the subsidies won’t be paid for months and months later, as is the case when people sign up for Medicare or buy low-cost health plans

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