Looking ahead

California has taken steps to strengthen and expand coverage even beyond what the federal law requires. For many Democratic lawmakers, this is a source of pride and another example of how California leads the nation. But there is a limit to the state’s power and resources. 

“If the Supreme Court were to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, and Congress did not act to step in and put something in place to fix it, California cannot solve the gaping shortage of finances,” Peter Lee, director of Covered California, said in November.

His agency spent about $140 million in advertising a new enrollment period. Recently, Covered California announced that it will keep the sign up window open for the remainder of the year. 

California is also looking to expand coverage in general. While the governor and the legislature are in the middle of negotiating a final budget, both have proposed opening the state’s Medi-Cal program to thousands more people through expansions and eliminating some eligibility restrictions.  

Experts expect President Joe Biden to expand on what’s already in place. 

As part of Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the federal government enhanced the financial aid available to people who buy health insurance off the marketplaces — $3 billion in new subsidies for Californians.  Covered California estimates about 2.5 million people in the state could benefit from the expanded aid, including about 810,000 uninsured people. The new financial help is good for two years.