Latino and young make up large number of newly enrolled

Statewide data released by Covered California officials late last week show that nearly 500,000 people signed up for health coverage through the exchange during the second open-enrollment period – and a large chunk were Latino and young adults.

According to the exchange, of new enrollees eligible for subsidies, 37 percent were Latino, 34 percent were white, 18 percent Asian and 4 percent were black.

Young adults, ages 18 to 34, made up 34 percent of the total enrolled. This number compares to the 29 percent who signed up last year in the same age group.

“New enrollment for 2015 coverage is strong and has brought in consumers who our marketing and outreach targeted,” said Peter V. Lee, Covered California executive director in a news release last week.

“It is clear Latinos, African-Americans and young adults not only heard, but acted on Covered California’s increased advertising and person-to-person outreach,” Lee said.

The numbers calculate enrollment up to Feb. 22, the deadline for open enrollment. Those who say they were unaware of the tax penalty for not having health insurance have until April 30 to sign up.

Alex Hernandez, a certified health insurance agent in Merced, said more families and individuals are seeking his assistance after filing their income taxes and discovering that they are being fined for not having health insurance.

He said some people had never heard about the penalty, and others simply didn’t believe the fine would be enforced. “Now that they see the penalty is real, they’re coming to sign up,” Hernandez said.

He also said that it’s important to note that the April 30 deadline is to avoid next year’s 2 percent-of-income penalty. “Some people think that if they sign up now, this year’s penalty will be waived. That’s not the case,” he added.

In his 1820 P St. office, Hernandez has also received visits from a number of customers who failed to report the accurate or most up-to-date income amount when signing up for health insurance last year. These customers are now having to repay some of the subsidies they received from the exchange.

Subsidies are based on the income and household size information provided by consumers, and when this information changes, so does the amount of aid the exchange provides, Hernandez said. Information on subsidies received can be found on customers’ 1095-A form, which people need to have when preparing taxes.

To avoid setbacks such as these, Hernandez advises that people report any changes in income or household size to the insurance agent they enrolled with. Those who self-enroll can visit the Covered California website to learn how to report changes.