Covered California says people who start a health insurance application through the exchange by March 31, will have until April 15 to finish the paperwork.
Executive Director Peter Lee says he wants to accommodate the overwhelming enrollment interest seen this week.
“Tuesday, we saw more accounts opened than any day, including at the peak of December when we saw a lot of enrollment," says Lee. "We saw in the first two days of this week, on Monday and Tuesday, more than 39,000 people that went all the way through to plan selection. That’s more people than enrolled or selected a plan in the entire month of October.”
Lee says high traffic is slowing down the website. He recommends getting in-person help from an enrollment counselor or insurance agent.
Uninsured people who miss this week’s deadline will have to wait until next year to get insurance, and may face a tax penalty.
Covered California says it’s allowing people an extra couple of weeks to finish enrolling if they start their application by this March 31.
In 22 Northern California counties, some health insurance customers have only one choice of insurer in Covered California. We go to a rural community north of Quincy to find out what that's like.
Blue Shield of California stopped selling policies to individuals in 250 zip codes in 2014. The coverage area reduction is especially felt in Northern California, where consumers have few choices through Covered California.
Anthem Blue Cross, the largest insurer in Covered California's Northern California region, ended an out-of-state benefit for individual planholders this year. Blue Shield of California plans in the region also restrict care to within state lines.
The open enrollment period for Covered California began less than a month ago. But the pace of applications and enrollments has already exceeded last year.
California offers several services for both documented and undocumented immigrants. But fears about deportation deter many people from taking advantage of the benefits offered to them.