SUMMARY: A keystone to maintaining affordable health insurance premiums is a stable and healthy insurance market. In the past, decisions at the federal and state levels, including those taken at Covered California, brought the rate of insured Californians to a record high and established a robust individual health insurance market in California. This, in turn, stabilized the insurance market, and tempered rate increases for Californians buying insurance for themselves.

Recent federal actions, including promotion of more limited “alternative products,” threaten to undermine the stability and affordability of California’s individual health insurance market. But, California is not without tools to protect its residents. By adopting proactive policies to guide consumers to comprehensive health insurance products, and by also legally protecting vulnerable consumers in the health insurance market, the state of California’s health insurance markets can remain strong.

In this paper, Consumers Union details barriers to comprehensive health insurance coverage: (1) federal rollbacks of consumer protections; (2) costs and complications associated with enrolling in health insurance; (3) confusion, misinformation, and a steep learning curve for consumers shopping for their own insurance, with a deep-dive into how these issues impact young adults in the market for health insurance. The report then recommends approaches for policymakers to help keep a robust individual risk pool and help Californians make smart choices.