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OnlineNavigator support is an independent service offered by Tony Novak, CPA, MBA MT subject to the adviser's schedule availability. This support is not intended to replace the services offered and available through other channels by your insurance company, insurance agents and health insurance navigators. Specifically, this service does not replace  online pricing and enrollment functions, billing, claims or administrative services and does not assist with Medicare or Medicaid plans.

See the OnlineNavigator web site for details on privacy policy and terms of service. 

Covering the Gaps in Obamacare

AUIC Deductible Supplement Insurance - three defined dollar benefit levels to add protection for unexpected hospital bills and other medical expenses left uncovered by primary insurance
AUIC Qualified Health Plan Supplement Insurance - no need to fear the out-of-pocket cost of doctor visits, hospital charges and other expenses left by primary medical coverage.
Core Health Insurance - the nation's most popular defined benefit health plans with guaranteed acceptance from US Fire Insurance Company
Value 24 Hour Accident - up to $10,000 of supplemental health insurance coverage for emergency treatment of injuries at a cost of about $2 per day. Can be used as a stand-alone coverage or added to other insurance.

Most Affordable Supplemental Coverage

Value Med Insurance - 3 question simple medical eligibility and immediate approval for this Supplemental Accident Insurance for doctor visits and hospital benefits

Primary Individual Major Medical Through a Private Exchange

Members Health Insurance Exchange allows you to price and choose from among many of the nations leading major medical health insurance options from a wide range of carriers. Personal help is available through OnlineNavigator to help with your selection.
Celtic Basic Health Insurance - a trim version of CeltiCare at a lower price

Dental and Vision Insurance

Core Dental Insurance - preventive, basic, and major dental expenses with the dentist of your choice. Shortest waiting period.
Secure DentalOne - one lifetime deductible of $100 and then up to $1,250 per year coverage

Online Life Insurance

International Term Life - up to $2 million coverage issued by Lloyds online specifically for those who spend time outside of the US.

Immigrant Insurance

Inbound Immigrant - up to five years of liberal health insurance coverage after immigration including maternity coverage, emergency and other essential benefits

Critical Illness and Cancer Insurance

Consumers Direct Critical Illness Insurance - Secure UpgradeSM $10,000 lump sum supplemental coverage for cancer, stroke or health disease for as little as $25 per month.

California health insurance news

by Tony Novak, CPA, MBA, MT     last updated: February 21, 2016

The two top priorities among individuals and small business who pay for their own health coverage is to find more affordable primary insurance and cover rapidly rising out-of-pocket medical costs that are not paid by primary health insurance.

Prior to implementation of the Affordable Care Act, California had more than 50 commercial health insurance companies offering individual health insurance through the California Health Benefits Exchange and other commercial  online exchanges plus about 32 companies that issue small group insurance. Beginning January 2014, all coverage became available on a "guaranteed issue" during the open enrollment season but the number of choices will decrease due to the changes put in place by federal health insurance reform. Guaranteed issue limited benefit policies ("mini-med") will continue to be available to California residents but these policies do not meet the minimum essential coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Now individual and small group coverage is provided by fewer insurance carriers that offer standardized minimum essential benefits plans as required under the Affordable Care Act. The largest six commercial insurance carriers accounted for three-fourths of the $111 billion health insurance revenues. The six largest individual insurance carriers are Aetna, Anthem Blue Shield of California, Cigna, HealthNet and UnitedHealthcare. The insurance plan that sets the benchmark for qualified coverage through the Covered California exchange is listed here and a list of state-mandated benefits can be found here. The state's six largest Preferred Provider Organizations participated in a 2014 Quality Score Ratings program.

Non-insurance options, like Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) can be added by businesses for their employees as effective cost-control tools.

This Web page lists the most popular low cost commercial health insurance and supplemental coverage plans available to individuals in the state. Freedom Benefits offers personal assistance with any health reform issue through

Federally mandated essential insurance benefit plans are available through the Covered California Health Insurance Marketplace and insurance brokers.

low cost health insurance

California insurance and benefit pricing

California ranked 26th in health insurance costs compared to all other states, with average premium costs slightly lower than the national average. (The average annual premium for a U.S. family covered under an employer-sponsored health plan in 2008 was $12,298 according to The Commonwealth Fund report. The overall quality of health care ranked 31st out of the 51 states (including DC).
The state ranked #3 in physical wellbeing (having good health and enough energy to get things done daily) according to a 2015 Gallup Healthways survey.
California regulates the benefits required for both individual major medical and group health insurance plans, known as "minimum essential coverage".

Short Term Medical Insurance

Markel Smart STM - popular and affordable short term major medical insurance with fast online approval
Secure STM - along with its 12 month and 36 month options, this may be the highest quality short term coverage
Secure Lite STM - the lowest priced short term major medical insurance for 1 to 12 months
Secure Saver STM - $2 million maximum coverage for 1-12 months short term medical insurance at an ultra-low rate.

California insurance law allows two consecutive 6 month policies and then requires a break in coverage of 63 days before you can reapply with the same company.

Supplemental Accident Insurance

Consumers Direct Accident Medical - Protection UpgradeSM supplemental coverage for as little as $20 per month.
Smart Accident Insurance - supplemental coverage for emergency treatment of accidents and injuries for as little as $20 per month. Can be used as a stand-alone accident plan or to increase other insurance benefits.

low cost health insurance

California insurance law and regulation

The California Department of Insurance Web site contains a section about protections for consumers who need to resolve claim disputes with to health insurers. Contact information for the insurance exchange and all insurance companies listed on the exchange is available here.
The state insurance department can be reached by telephone at 800-927-HELP or by mail at P.O. Box 311, Sacramento CA 95812. The state children's health insurance plan (CHIP) Web site is California Healthy Families.

Small Business Employee Benefit Plans

Freedom Benefits offers professional help with setup of self-administered Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA), Premium Reimbursement Plans, Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and insurance at a low price tha5 any small business can afford. Covered California's Small Business Health Options Program offers group insurance plans.

Other resources for small business health plan compliance:
California Dept. of Industrial Relations
California Employment Development Dept.
California Franchise Tax Board

Non-insurance Discount Plans

Careington PPO Discount Plans - the nation's leading network PPO discount provider allows a no-risk trial of any discount plan for only a $20 processing fee
Drug Card America - a free prescription drug card that an be used nationwide
Essential Dental Solutions - simple, inexpensive, no waiting period, up to $500 treatment per year


CallMD - Doctors and nurses literally on call 24/7 to answer questions, help with medical screening and write prescriptions saving you money with the most common types of medical care. $20 per month covers everyone in the household.

International Coverage and Travel Insurance

California Insurance News

4/29/2015 Covered California are their fristrations on social media. Over 200 Yelp users gave the state insurance exchange a poor rating and some posted photos illustrating the source of their frustration.

12/7/2014 Covered California acknowledges a systematic probkem in procesing requests to cancel coverage. We recommend that requests to cancel or change coverage be made in writing or online and not by telephone. Contact information is available at

9/27/2014 Two of California's five largest health insurance companies Cigna and Blue Shield of California are being sued by consumer advocate groups for misleading consumers during this year's open enrollment season about the number of doctors and hospitals participating in their networks. Freedom Benefits adviser tony Novak predicted and wrote about this problem as a design fault in Obamacare policies and the exchange system prior to the offering of 2014 coverage. Freedom Benefits clarifies that this limitation on network coverage does not apply to short term medical insurance or any of the Supplemental Accident Insurance plans listed on its web site or offered through Members Insurance Exchange. that reported the story also discloses that Blue Shield of California helps support its service in the state.

2/11/2014 Professional support for any health care reform issue is available free of charge through an arrangement with OnlineNavigator. All online inquiries are handled personally by Tony Novak, CPA. Online support is available through a number of popular social media channels including Facebook and Google+ as well as e-mail. Telephone support for insurance enrollment is available through Members Insurance Exchange at (800) 609-0683.

10/7/2013 Cover California insurance exchange now has more than 500 trained call center workers, 13,000 agents/broker insurance producers, thousands of enrollment advisor applicants and 20,000 county eligibility workers to assist more than 7 million consumers without health insurance. It appears that California's insurance exchange system is off to a better start than most other states. Some insurance brokers reported significant difficulties in the first week of the online enrollment system.

7/26/2013 Affordable Smart Term Life Insurance is now available to most California residents from age 20 through 60 directly online with no physical exam, agent appointment or telephone verification. Most policies are issued on the same day with coverage amounts of $25,000 up to $350,000. The level premium life insurance is available for terms of 10, 15, 20 and 30 years. Sample rates for $150,000 coverage for a preferred risk male age 30, non-tobacco $30.85 per month; tobacco user $49.55 per month. A preferred risk female age 30 non-tobacco user would be $26.49 per month and a tobacco user would be $40.96 per month. Rates are higher for older applicants and lower health risks as described online. Pricing is based on input you provide about your medical history but, unlike most other life insurers, does not consider family medical history. Coverage is issued by innovative National Life Group, rated "A" by A.M. Best Company for 2013.

5/24/2013 The California Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) will be discontinued on June 30, 2013. Current enrollees will be notified by mail may they switch to the federal PCIP plan as long as they pay their July premium in advance in accordance to the instructions in the conversion letter. If a subscriber is in the course of treatment or has received prior-authorization for services, he or she will be mailed guidance about transition of care. It is critical that he or she follow required pre-authorization of benefits procedures for hospitalization, durable medical equipment or supplies, transplants, skilled nursing, long-term acute care or rehabilitation facility admission, spinal fusion surgery or cancer treatment plans anticipated to occur on or after July 1. This is necessary even if the subscriber was already authorized with the California PCIP.  Those who are not currently enrolled or those who miss the deadline can convert to a limited benefit medical insurance through Freedom Benefits or another commercial insurance exchange until the beginning of 2014 when all major medical insurance is available in the same manner as the current PCIP. More information about the federal PCIP, is available at or 866-717-5826 Monday-Friday 5:00 am to 8:00 pm pacific time (TTY: 1-866-561-1604).

5/23/2013 Officials for the Covered California insurance exchange confirmed that large national insurance companies including  Aetna, Cigna and UnitedHealth care declined to participate on the new exchange for 2014. The exchange also announced that it expects to sell primarily to working class applicants in the "less than 400% of poverty" income threshold for premium assistance under current federal law.

3/3/2013 California suspended enrollment in its Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan. Applications received after March 2, 2013 for the PCIP program will no longer be enrolled unless they meet the limited exception criterion. Instead, the PCIP/MRMIP Applications will be processed for the California’s high risk pool, Major Risk Medical Insurance Plan (MRMIP) eligibility. The MRMIP is still open for new enrollment and available for individuals with a pre-existing condition, if eligible. The PCIP/MRMIP Application is currently used for both PCIP and MRMIP.

2/22/2013 This page was updated to include a link to the insurance plan that will be used to determine specific "essential health benefits" for insurance that qualified for 2014 federal tax purposes. Also, a link to additional covered benefits required by state law. Non-qualified insurance is likely to continue to be available at a lower cost that does not include these benefits nor qualify for federal tax purposes.

8/2/2012 The state is planning a massive advertising campaign for the California Health Benefit Exchange next year that will be ready to launch in January 2014 when Californians will be required to have health insurance or pay a penalty tax. The exchange is supposed to work as an online superstore with purchasing power like Some express concern over the state's influence in the commercial insurance market or why taxpayer money should be spend advertising commercial products sold by the state. John Graham , director of health care studies for the Pacific Research Institute, is quotes in Wall Street Journal saying "I don't know of a government agency that works like" Until now, all insurance had to be offered under the same terms and prices regardless of where it was purchased. It is not clear whether Californian lawmakers intend to change this part of the law in order to have the state gain a legal advantage in health insurance sales.

2/1/2012 The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, a division of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that as of June 30, 2011 Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Anthem BC Life and Health, and Blue Cross of California are the state's largest health insurance providers and as such, earn the right to set the benchmark for the development of the state's essential benefit plans to debut in 2014 under health reform law.

6/22/2011 A group of 122,000 former Anthem policyholders won a settlement in a class action lawsuit against Blue Shield of California over rates hikes and lack of notification that forced many to drop coverage. These members are now guaranteed eligibility in other lower cost health plans even though the law would not normally require this until 2014.

5/26/2011 California's largest non-profit health insurer is facing criticism after government-required disclosure of executive compensation showed that Blue Shield of California's chief executive compensation is more than twice the amount of the largest for-profit insurance company. The highest amount of compensation was $4.6 million and ten executives had pay of more than $749,000.

3/30/2011 California considers 15 new health coverage mandates that will likely make major medical insurance less attractive to individuals who purchase coverage.

2/12/2011 With dozens of health plans choices available online offering a wide range of pricing and benefits, how do you find the best combination of price and benefits? Celtic Insurance realizes that the choices can be overwhelming; the company offers more than 40 possible health plan designs in many parts of the United States. A new feature called "Help Me Choose" lets users easily and quickly select the benefits they value most and narrows the list down to a few of the best choices. No personal information is required other than zip code and date of birth.

2/3/2011 California is named as one of the states most likely to cut back on Medicaid spending and coverage. The Universal Health Insurance blog discusses the impact on the state's commercial insurance consumers.

2/1/2011 Rates and applications for broker-assisted California Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan are now available for 2011. Applications can be submitted with or without a broker; there is no difference in the premium cost or the coverage. We may act as the submitting broker upon request; just send an e-mail to Tony Novak at The plan information, application forms and rate table are available only through electronic (e-mail) delivery. Application status confirmations and policyholder notices will also be handled electronically.

1/30/2011 Patients with health insurance and a credit card now have access to VIP treatment when care is needed at a hospital emergency room. Tenet Healthcare hospitals joined the growing list of hospitals in southern California that allows patients to use InQuickER, a reservation system that books appointments and reduces waiting time in the emergency room. The reservation system makes check-in easier by recording your insurance and payment information in advance. The service costs $15 to $25. Of course the nature unpredictable medical emergencies mean that the service cannot absolutely guarantee that you'll be seen immediately at your appointment time, but you get a full refund if not treated within 15 minutes after arrival. The InQuickER service works in conjunction with any of the private health insurance plans listed here at but is not available to uninsured patients.

Participating hospitals include Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, Loma Linda University Medical Center (Children) in Loma Linda, San Antonio Community Hospital in Upland, John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio, Fountain Valley Regional Hospital in Fountain Valley, Placentia-Linda Hospital in Placentia, Los Alamitos Medical Center in Los Alamitos, and Lakewood Regional Medical Center in Lakewood.

1/19/2011 Child-only health insurance for children with significant medical problems will be available through an open enrollment period mandated by federal state law during the months of January and February and during the child’s birth month. All children, regardless of medical condition, continue to be eligible for insurance when applying as a dependent on a parent’s policy and healthy children are eligible for child-only insurance at any time. When applying for child-only insurance for more than one child, make a separate application for each child.

1/11/2011 Consumers will apparently not be immediately affected by new emergency orders by Insurance Commissioner David Jones that threatened to disrupt the availability of insurance. We had feared that companies would stop offering coverage in the wake of the unprecedented regulations by the new regulator but that withdrawal did not happen. Aetna expressed an opinion that the state may not have the authority to override federal health reform rules on minimum loss ratio but the company will not stop offering new insurance policies. A new article "Effect of Minimum Loss Ratio Regulation" provides more information on this topic.

1/7/2011 California Blue Shield announced rate increases averaging 30%, with some as high as 59%. Our blog "A Closer look at California Blue Shield rate increases" breaks down the issue and offers suggestions on what policyholders can do about it.

12/16/2010 California Health and Human Services Agency officials met representatives of 44 other states and numerous employees of the federal Health and Human Services Department in Washington DC this week for a two-day working meeting to discuss the next steps in establish a government-run health insurance exchange under the American Health Benefit Exchange Model Act. Their attendance at this meeting was paid for by a $1 million federal grant awarded by HHS in September to the state for research how to set up an insurance exchange. Two states (Alaska and Minnesota) declined to participate, saying that it was a waste of taxpayer money. Four other states (not identified in press reports) that received federal grants did not send representatives to the meeting. Attendees included representatives of 16 states that are suing the federal government in an attempt to overturn the federal health reform law; specifically the requirement that forces individuals to buy health insurance on the insurance exchange or pay a hefty tax fine.

In its initial federal grant request for the insurance exchange project, California said that it would: 1) Establish an Exchange Board and recruit key staff, 2) Analyze the current public and private insurance markets, 3) Convene stakeholders and the general public to gather input, 4) Develop a multi-year plan for Exchange planning tasks, and 5) Collect data on the demographics of the current and projected population, profiles of insurance markets offering coverage in California and estimates of how the Affordable Care Act will change the number of uninsured Californians.

The meeting reportedly did not address the role of the commercial health insurance exchanges on the implementation of new competing government systems. The model act does not address inter-state insurance exchange proposals nor insurance sales across state lines. Federal officials admitted that they may not be able to provide further guidance until 2012. Meanwhile, most states are motivated to continue to meet requirements to obtain additional funding promised by the federal government for the establishment of insurance exchange by 2014. Freedom Benefits has previously voiced the opinion that the huge amount of money being spent to set up alternate insurance sales system technologies could be better used providing health benefits to the public. We proposed on the Universal Health Insurance blog that adequate commercial insurance sales systems are already in place that could be modified in a public/private partnership to make health insurance more affordable.

11/12/2010 One in ten Californians is now covered by a consumer-directed health plan with high deductible insurance, according to a new report issued by UCLA Health Policy Research. These plans keep health care dollars in the hands of consumers rather than in health insurance premiums and tend to appeal to healthy affluent individuals. Health reform laws could increase the mandated coverage and premium costs but legislative modifications are likely to eventually make high deductible policies the dominant preferred type of insurance coverage in the United States. California currently leads the nation with health plans at the opposite end of the coverage spectrum with almost half of Californians now enrolled in HMOs that the major health care decisions on their behalf. Nationwide, HMOs are far less popular, attracting only about 21% of Americans nationwide. Freedom Benefits Insurance Exchange is committed to offering a full range of high deductible consumer-driven health plans to replace HMOs.

11/9/2010 Medi-Cal Expansion - California's Medicaid plan now covers about 7.5 million mostly non-working state residents and will add an additional 500,000 residents by expanding program eligibility to residents with annual incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level. In some counties the income levels are 200% of the federal poverty level. The program expansion is likely to increase complaints that the state's lower economic class receives better access to health care than the working class especially if federal funding for premium subsidies is withdrawn as expected.

9/21/2010 Rate increases for October 2010 - The California Department of Insurance approved rate increases ranging from 14% to 29% for policies from the state's four largest insurance companies that cover a large majority of those who but their own health insurance in the state. The rate increases become effective October 1, 2010 so we anticipate a larger than usual number of healthy members will attempt to move to one of the state's smaller  health insurance plans.

8/24/2010 New restrictions for CA insurance shoppers: The California Department of Insurance issued regulations effective August 23, 2010 requiring health insurance companies to thoroughly investigate the histories of those seeking insurance coverage before accepting any premiums. About 1.1 million Californians covered by individual health policies are immediately affected by the department. The rules affect those applying for coverage through the state health insurance exchange as well as those applying though traditional channels. Changing insurance plans could change from a one day process to a 90 day process. Previously insurance companies were allowed to rely on the written statements made by an applicant to determine whether the applicant was eligible for coverage. The new law requires companies to independently verify the eligibility criteria including health history, age, citizenship, residency, eligibility for an employer-sponsored health plan, and sometimes other factors.

The most difficult verification is an applicant's medical history. Federal law known as HIPAA makes it difficult, tedious and sometimes expensive to obtain medical records. Doctors and hospitals typically require pre-payment of a medical records fee ranging from $35 to $75. An applicant with multiple medical service providers could incur significant fees and delays in the record transmittal. Insurance companies are allowed to charge the insurance applicant for the cost of obtaining medical records but none of the CA insurance companies we spoke with had announced plans to raise application fees as of this date. Insurance companies have acknowledged that it will take significantly longer to underwrite a policy in California under the new rules.

Freedom Benefits is working with the Association of California Life and Health Insurance Companies to stop the new rules and bring the health insurance application process into line with that in all other states. We see no reason that California should adapt a consumer protection policy that is so different from the industry practices followed in every other state in the nation.

Meanwhile, OnlineAdviser offers these five suggestions to Californians who are shopping for health insurance:

The new law was designed to prevent insurance companies from making illegal rescissions, but . Insurance companies are still allowed to cancel policies if an applicant makes an intentionally false statement on an application but also places a new burden of checking the facts in advance. So little is gained in terms of consumer protection and industry officials estimate that the new law could add up to $200 in costs to the price of an insurance policy. California insurance buyers typically change insurance companies every 2nd or 3rd year, according to Freedom Benefits data collected since 1986. A typical health insurance policy, including short term and limited benefit policies, is in force for about 13 months.

8/23/2010 State funding planned for insurance exchange: The California state legislator is considering legislation to set up a state-sponsored health insurance exchange that would provide $1 to $2 million per year to help consumers find health insurance online. Presumably a state-sponsored exchange would be able to support a wider range of health plans than the current private insurance exchanges. If approved by the state legislature, part of the cost will be subsidized by the federal government until 2014. Some consumer advocates express concerning taxpayer funds to promote the sale of health insurance yet it is possible that a state-sponsored exchange combined marketing program. The price and terms of insurance is not affected by an exchange and insurance purchased on a state exchange. Federal law allows a state to charge insurance companies for participation in an exchange while there are generally no fees to participate in the current insurance exchange system. OnlineAdviser will continue to provide support for all health insurance listed on any exchange.

5/12/2010 Diabetes Coverage: A new resource to help with health insurance for diabetics in California is available

Mission Statement| Editorial Policy| Privacy Policy| About Freedom Benefits| News| Investors

This web site is independently owned and managed by Tony Novak operating under the trademarks "Freedom Benefits", "OnlineAdviser" and "OnlineNavigator". Opinions expressed are the sole responsibility of the author and do not represent the opinion of any other person, company or entity mentioned. Tony Novak is not an agent, broker, producer or navigator for any federal or state health insurance exchange but may provide uncompensated advice, reviews and referrals to these official resources. Novak is compensated as an accountant, adviser, affiliate consultant, marketer, reviewer, endorser, producer, lead generator or referrer to some of the other commercial companies listed on this site. Information is from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed.