Covered California is California's health insurance exchange, similar to

CoveredCA screens health insurance plans to ensure they meet minimal essential coverage and quality standards. They also provide a layer of protection for consumers in regards to working with health insurers.

During its first year of operation, there have been some snags in the CoveredCA website interface and in communication between CoveredCA and insurance companies. These issues are being addressed, and I'm cautiously optimistic that they'll be mostly resolved during the next open enrollment, from October through December.

On, one can check to see if they're eligible for a federal subsidy to help them pay for their health insurance. This subsidy is paid directly to the insurance companies, and you'll receive a reduced bill for your monthly premium.

You can use the website on your own and choose a plan, or you can work with an authorized agent or a navigator. There is no charge to have an agent or navigator help you -- they're compensated in the form of commissions for agents or a sign-up fee with navigators. Navigators are not licensed insurance agents, and can not help you choose a plan -- they can only help you work your way through the website. If you run into problems with the insurance company, an agent can help you, but a navigator cannot. Your premiums are the same whether you sign up on your own or with an agent or navigator.

Insurance plans available on CoveredCA are also available directly from the carrier, and it may make sense in some cases to bypass CoveredCA and get your insurance off the exchange. If you're not eligible for a subsidy, it may make sense to not use CoveredCA. The insurance companies often have plans that aren't available on the website. In addition to the subsidy, another major advantage of buying through CoveredCA is that the payment grace period is 90 days, which is a lot longer than when you buy directly. Another reason why it may make sense to buy off of the exchange is if your income is low (for example, if you're between jobs) and you don't want to go on Medi-Cal. is a joint partnership between Covered California™ and the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS).

Covered California's mission is to increase the number of Californians with health insurance, improve the quality of health care for all Californians, reduce health care coverage costs and make sure California's diverse population has fair and equal access to quality health care.

The mission of DHCS is to provide low-income Californians with access to affordable, high-quality health care, including medical, mental health and substance abuse treatment services and long-term care. Its vision is to preserve and improve the physical and mental health of all Californians.

On, you will have the ability to choose the health plan that offers the best services at the greatest value for you or find out if you qualify for Medi-Cal. This is insurance that can't be dropped or denied if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

Covered California and DHCS are committed to ensuring that Californians are aware of their health coverage options. Through, you can find out if you qualify for free or low-cost health insurance, including Medi-Cal, and compare a range of health plans and choose the right one for you. Covered California provides information in many languages and in culturally relevant ways.