By Giana Magnoli

Noozhawk Managing Editor

There are two plan options in 2020 for Santa Barbara County residents who want to buy health insurance through Covered California, as Anthem Blue Cross returns to the Central Coast market.

Locals only had the option of purchasing Blue Shield health plans through the state health insurance exchange for the 2018 and 2019 years, but can purchase Anthem EPO or Blue Shield PPO plans for 2020.

Open enrollment for 2020 ends Jan. 31, but Medi-Cal enrollment is year-round, and anyone with a qualifying life event (such as losing employer-sponsored coverage or student health coverage) can sign up anytime.

Starting in 2020, California residents need to have qualifying health insurance, obtain an exemption from the requirement, or pay a penalty when they file their state tax return.

The penalty will be $695 for an adult and half that for a dependent child, according to Covered California.

According to the Covered California 2020 plan options, the Central Coast region of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties will have the second-highest average rate increase, of 4.6 percent, compared to the current year.

As of April, 91 percent of the 64,368 enrollees were receiving financial assistance for premiums.

If Covered California customers in the Central Coast change to the lowest-cost plan of their tier (bronze, silver, gold, or platinum), they could save an estimated 2.3 percent on average, according to the state.

Statewide, most people are expected to be able to pay the same premiums, or less, if they switch plans, according to Covered California.

There are 12 insurance providers through Covered California for the state, but only three for the Central Coast region, and two for Santa Barbara County: Anthem EPO (exclusive provider organization) and Blue Shield PPO (preferred provider organization) plans.

The plans are in different metal tiers, with bronze plans having the lowest premiums and highest out-of-pocket costs, while platinum plans have the highest premiums and lowest out-of-pocket costs.

This year, 54.9 percent of the 15,010 Santa Barbara County Covered California customers purchased silver tier plans, 38.4 percent purchased bronze plans, 5.4 percent purchased gold plans, and fewer than 1 percent each purchased minimum coverage or platinum plans.

The age breakdown of Covered California enrollees for 2019 is as follows: 8.7 percent are age 17 or under; 9.7 percent are ages 18-25; 15.3 percent are ages 26-34; 13.2 percent are ages 35-44; 20.1 percent are ages 45-55; 32.4 percent are ages 55-64; and 0.6 percent are age 65 or older.

Certified enrollment counselors, including insurance agents, are available to help residents enroll in health coverage, and plan details and price comparisons are available on the Covered California website through the Shop and Compare tool.

For more information about enrolling in Medi-Cal health benefits, contact CenCal Health, the Medicaid administrator for Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. 

You can submit applications online, through Covered California (anytime, there is no specific enrollment period) or the MyBenefits CalWIN website, and by visiting a Department of Social Services office. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at