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What You Need to Know About Open Enrollment Period for Individual and Family Plans

Steve Shearer, general manager and vice president of Individual and Family Plans at Blue Shield, explains what consumers should consider when shopping for health coverage for 2021

This is the time of the year when Californians have an opportunity to apply for a health plan for themselves and their families for 2021 coverage.

Consumers have several options and many things to consider in choosing their health coverage. For example, it is important to remember that individuals may qualify for state and/or federal financial assistance when purchasing health plan coverage to make it more affordable to them. In fact, earlier this year, the maximum income threshold for individuals and families eligible for premium subsidies expanded from 400 percent to 600 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

If applicants are eligible, government financial assistance or subsidies are available by enrolling for health coverage through Covered California. However, if someone doesn’t need or qualify for financial assistance, they can purchase their plan directly through commercial health plans such as Blue Shield of California. Blue Shield offers PPO and HMO medical and dental plans on Covered California, and consumers also can purchase health, dental and vision plans through Blue Shield.

We asked Steve Shearer, general manager and vice president of Individual and Family Plans at Blue Shield, what consumers should consider when shopping for health coverage for 2021.


What is open enrollment for Individual and Family Plans, and what do I need to know for me and my family?

Each year, Open Enrollment Period is a time for individuals and families to purchase their own health coverage if they don’t get it through their employer, Medicare, or Medi-Cal.

Steve Shearer - photo
Steve Shearer

Our health plans are designed to be affordable. For example, on average, Blue Shield’s Individual and Family Health Plan premium rates will actually decline by 2.4 percent in 2021. As a nonprofit health plan, our mission is helping to ensure Californians have access to quality health care that is sustainably affordable.


How and when do you enroll for health benefits for 2021?

With the holiday season quickly approaching, take time now to pick your plan and avoid the last-minute rush.

Remember, you can enroll, re-enroll, or change your 2021 health plan between November 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021. However, if you want to ensure you have coverage on January 1, 2021, your last day to enroll is December 15, 2020. If you wait to enroll by January 31, 2021 your coverage will start February 1, 2021.

As a Californian, you have several options to help you get enrolled. You can call Blue Shield at 1-855-225-1709 to discuss your options available directly through Blue Shield and through Covered California. We have a dedicated team that can help you with either application. If you aren’t interested in government financial assistance, you can also apply directly at

Remember, government financial assistance is available for those who qualify. With so much job loss and economic instability due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Blue Shield urges Californians to take time and find out if they qualify for subsidies to help alleviate their financial challenges. Also, you can check out our subsidy calculator to see if you are likely to be eligible. 


What are some types of benefit plans consumers should be aware of?

It comes down to the needs of individuals and families. For example, Blue Shield is the only health plan on Covered California that offers statewide PPO health plans in every zip code. However, we also offer a Trio HMO product that offers coordinated care with predictable costs through high quality networks of local doctors and hospitals.


Does Blue Shield offer dental and vision for me and my family? 

The good news is that if you already have a Blue Shield medical plan for your family, basic dental and vision coverage is already included for your children up to age 19. The adults over the age of 19 will need to purchase it separately. We also offer plans that cover implants and braces that are available to kids and adults. Our dental plans start at just $11.50 per month and vision plans start at just $6.50 per month. For more information, visit us at or call us at 855-225-1709.