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Coated California's medical health insurance premiums slated for small enhance in North Bay – jj
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Coated California's medical health insurance premiums slated for small enhance in North Bay

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Health care premiums next year for North Bay residents insured through the Covered California marketplace will increase by the smallest amount since 2014, when the health exchange was launched under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Premiums for Covered California’s Region 2, which includes Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties, are expected to increase by 1.1% in 2020, state officials said. About 51,000 people are enrolled in health insurance through Covered California in those counties.

State health care advocate Anthony Wright said Monday he expects the modest rate increase will attract more people to enroll in Covered California, especially in the Santa Rosa area.

“In Santa Rosa, it is a high cost of living for everything, including and especially health care costs,” said Wright, executive director for Health Access California, which lobbies for high quality and affordable health care.

“We all know that the cost of living across Northern California is much more than almost anywhere else, so this is a big and important step to extend our health care coverage across the state,” he said.

Statewide, the premium increase next year will be slightly lower than in the North Bay — up 0.8%.

Larry Hicks, spokesman for Covered California, said the health insurance exchange is projecting such small premium increases in 2020 because of an increase in enrollment and a state budget that provides more subsidies to defray the cost of health insurance for low- and middle-income residents and reinstitutes the state’s mandate for individuals to buy coverage if they aren’t covered by an employer group plan.

“The Affordable Care Act originally focused our goal on getting as many people as possible insured,” Hicks said.

“Now with the help of more government subsidies, we are getting new funding to help the middle class, or roughly 235,000 people in the state.”

Beginning next year, an expanded state subsidy for health insurance will help those making between $50,000 and $70,000 annually.

The new state subsidies are part of $335 million in investments in the state’s 2019-2020 budget. Additionally, those who fall under the $50,000 annual income range will continue to receive assistance through ongoing state and federal health insurance subsidy programs.

Also, three insurers — Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California and Chinese Community Health Plan — plan further expansion of health coverage across the state next year.

The push by the California Legislature to help the middle class afford health insurance was in response to what Wright called an attack on health care that began about two years ago by the Trump administration.

“After we had a couple of rough years from a tough administration that was trying to sabotage our health care system, California took big steps to ensure we are protected and everyone gets the coverage they need,” Wright said.

You can reach Staff Writer Alexandria Bordas at 707-521-5337 or alexandria.bordas@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @CrossingBordas.

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