Californians must have health insurance coverage starting Jan. 1 or face penalties when we pay our 2020 state income taxes in 2021.
Axis Community Health, one of this year's recipients of Pleasanton Weekly's 2019 Holiday Fund contributions, can help.
Known best for offering medical and mental health services for low income and uninsured individuals and families -- where it excels -- Axis also is now a key provider of information and assistance for those enrolling in Covered California or Medi-Cal or renewing Medi-Cal coverage.
"Health insurance can be confusing," said Paula Barriga, community relations manager for Axis. "If you have questions or concerns about enrolling, we can help."
"Axis enrollment counselors can help determine if someone is eligible for Medi-Cal, Covered California or CalFresh during a free enrollment assistance appointment," Barriga added.
Open enrollment for Covered California health plans began Oct. 15 and ends Jan. 31. Many people already have qualifying health insurance coverage, including employer-sponsored plans, coverage purchased through Covered California or directly from insurers, Medicare and most Medicaid plans.
Under the new mandate, those who fail to maintain qualifying health insurance coverage could face a financial penalty unless they qualify for an exemption, Barriga explained. Generally speaking, a taxpayer who fails to secure coverage will be subject to a penalty of $695 when they file their 2020 state income tax return in 2021.
Covered California offers plans from private insurance companies for U.S. citizens and documented immigrants. Applicants cannot be denied coverage due to preexisting conditions, and eligible applicants can receive financial assistance to help cover the cost of plans and services.
For coverage starting Jan. 1, enroll by Dec. 15. Plans purchased during the current open enrollment period will be honored through the end of 2020.
Axis counselors will assist people in enrolling in Medi-Cal or renewing Medi-Cal coverage. To qualify, an individual must meet income and other eligibility requirements. For individuals, an income of $17,237 or less qualifies; for a family of four an income of $35,535 or less qualifies.
For those not eligible for Medi-Cal, counselors will work to get them coverage through Covered California. They will help fill out online applications and also determine if applicants are eligible for financial assistance to cover the cost of a health plan.
Axis is holding Covered California and Medi-Cal information sessions at these locations:
* Livermore Library: 2-3 p.m., Dec. 3.
* Pleasanton Library: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Dec. 6 and Jan. 3.
* Axis Health Center (5925 W. Las Positas Blvd.): 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 7 -- in collaboration with U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell's office.
* Dublin Library: 1-4 p.m., Dec. 9 and Jan. 13.
* Information table at Las Positas College: 1-3 p.m., Dec. 17.
In-person assistance at Axis is free and available in English and Spanish.
"It's important that consumers not miss the open enrollment window for Covered California or they may not have another opportunity to enroll," Barriga said.
Axis also provides medical services on a sliding fee scale based on income and family size. But regardless of income, insurance status or ability to pay, Axis will work with patients to help them get the care they need.
"No one will ever be denied access to services due to inability to pay," Barriga said.
The families who depend on Axis are the working poor; 95% of Axis medical patients have a family income less than 200% of the federal poverty level, which is less than $46,100 a year for a family of four.
Last year, Axis provided more than 2,000 medical visits that were uncompensated, according to Valerie Jonas, chief development officer. She said the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund is an important source of financial help for meeting these uncompensated services.