Covered California doesn’t administer or enroll you into a MAGI Medi-Cal health plan. Through the Covered California income section where you enter you monthly income, the Covered California application system determines if you or your dependents are eligible for MAGI Medi-Cal. If your income indicates you are eligible for MAGI Medi-Cal in the Covered California system, that information is pushed over to the Department of Health Care Services and your county social services office.
Household Income Levels
Posts related to eligibility for health care programs based on household income such as Covered California, Medi-Cal, Medicare usually based on federal poverty levels.
The failure on the part of Covered California is that they waited two weeks before generating a letter to the consumer explaining the situation. While the letter apologizes for the error, they never really spell out how or why it happened. It is sad the family had to learn from their health plan that their monthly bill was being adjusted.
Joe and Jan report the income change to Covered California in June so the new lower subsidy will take affect July 1. Much to their surprise, instead of a $850 subsidy, they only receive a $500 subsidy. Their health insurance premium will double! Why? Because they already used $7,200 of the new lower $10,200 subsidy at the higher income amount.
Covered California screens for Medi-Cal eligibility based on your monthly income, not annual income. Therefore, it is imperative, that when you are reporting a change to your income that the monthly income be accurate relative to published 138% of federal poverty level for adults and 266% for children.
Covered California has released a document explaining how the Coronavirus aid payments count as income for individuals and families. What could be a real issue for many mixed households (adults in Covered California and children on MAGI Medi-Cal) is that some of the extra unemployment benefits will be counted differently for the purposes of household income between the two agencies.
Let me emphasize that you are ESTIMATING your income for the year. Your past income and tax return can be used as a guide, but may not be an accurate predictor of your future MAGI. For example, if your spouse is set to collect Social Security retirement benefits in 2020, that income needs to be added to the MAGI.
There really is no mystery as to why the Covered California income chart doesn’t match the Medi-Cal federal poverty level income table. Covered California is working with two different programs. They must screen for MAGI Medi-Cal eligibility based on current monthly income and the latest federal poverty levels, and, they must also determine the Advance Premium Tax Credit subsidies following IRS guidelines that use the previous year’s federal poverty levels. And if you follow all of that, you are smarter than me!
If your income increases, many people incorrectly assume they are no longer eligible for MAGI Medi-Cal. That is not the case. Medi-Cal is based on your monthly income, not necessarily your annual income. Just because you had an unexpected bump in your hours for one month, does not mean you are no longer eligible. Just report the change to Medi-Cal and let them make the determination. The same applies if you receive a one-time lump sum income amount. These types of events are not necessary counted against you.
The Medi-Cal HMO plans are very similar to private health insurance plans. The plans have member ID cards, a provider network, and a drug formulary. One of the biggest complaints I hear is that the Medi-Cal HMO plans have few primary care providers and specialists that are accepting new patients. I also hear the same complaint from my clients in private health plans.
As many people enrolled in Covered California have found out, the folks at Covered California will not talk about taxes. Most consumers have also learned the dirty little secret about the federal and state subsidies for health insurance; it’s all about your tax return. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the California Franchises Tax Board (FTB) don’t care how you estimated your income to Covered California to become eligible for the monthly subsidies. They only care about the final income number (MAGI) that entitles you to a subsidy.