People who have lost their jobs and health insurance benefits amid the coronavirus pandemic can immediately sign up for coverage through Covered California.

The collaboration with the Department of Health Care Services will allow people to sign up now, even though it is outside the annual enrollment period.

“We want to get as many people covered as possible to ensure they have access to the health care they need,” Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said in a statement. “Having more people insured is the right thing to do, and this action builds on our efforts to leave no one behind in California.”

Government orders to shut down businesses and require people to stay at home have sent the economy into a state of upheaval. Companies, particularly in the service industry, are committing mass layoffs to stop the economic bleeding. Anyone who meets Covered California’s eligibility requirements, which are similar to those in place during the annual open-enrollment period, can sign up for coverage through June 30.

People who sign up through Covered California will have access to private health insurance plans with monthly premiums that may be lowered because of federal and new state financial help that became effective in 2020. After selecting a plan, their coverage would begin on the first of the following month — meaning individuals losing job-based coverage will not face a gap in coverage, according to the news release.

Some very low-income consumers who sign up through might also be eligible for no-cost or low-cost coverage through Medi-Cal; those customers can have coverage that is effective immediately.

California has put a 90-day hold on Medi-Cal renewal reviews, ensuring that those already enrolled can continue their coverage and freeing up resources to quickly process the expected new enrollments. DHCS also is seeking expanded authority to expedite enrollment for seniors and other vulnerable populations, expand the use of telehealth, and take other steps to make care easier to access.

“The extraordinary challenges posed by COVID-19 demand an equally extraordinary response, and the Medi-Cal and Covered California systems are stepping up to meet the need for health coverage and ease access to services,” Dr. Bradley Gilbert, director of the Department of Health Care Services, said in a statement.

Medi-Cal provides coverage for about 13 million Californians.

The California Department of Managed Health Care and the California Department of Insurance will provide guidance on health plans during the special-enrollment period, which will also include off-exchange health plans. This will ensure consumers enrolling in the entire individual market in California will have access to coverage during the pandemic emergency.

“We are working together to protect the health and safety of Californians during this pandemic,” said Shelley Rouillard, director of the Department of Managed Health Care. “This includes making sure that Californians are able to access health care coverage. Opening a special-enrollment period due to COVID-19 offers new coverage options to Californians when they need it most.”

In addition, all medically necessary screening and testing for COVID-19 will be free. This includes telehealth or doctor’s office visits as well as network emergency room or urgent care visits when necessary for the purpose of screening and testing for COVID-19.

“A core part of our mission is improving access to high-quality health care, and that has never been more important than it is right now in California,” Lee said.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.