Health & Medicine

‘Get it while it’s there’: Covered California extends Jan. 31 deadline for health insurance under Affordable Care Act

'Get it while it's there': Consumers urged to sign up under Covered California's enrollment extension

Kay Temple Kirk of Gender Health Center urges consumers to sign up for health care as Covered California gives consumers until Feb. 4 to finish enrolling in a plan.
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Kay Temple Kirk of Gender Health Center urges consumers to sign up for health care as Covered California gives consumers until Feb. 4 to finish enrolling in a plan.

Anticipating a last-minute surge in enrollments, Covered California extended its Jan. 31 sign-up deadline, saying it would help more Californians “cross the finish line” to health care coverage.

“We expect a surge in large numbers in these last hours,” said Covered California spokesman Roy Kennedy, “and we want to be sure that everyone can get the coverage they need and the benefits they deserve.”

To qualify for the extended paperwork deadline, Californians must start the enrollment process by midnight on Jan. 31, but have until Saturday to finish the paperwork.

“Experience tells us that people wait until the last day to sign up for health insurance, and we do not want to leave anyone behind,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee, in a statement. “Health care is so important, and people should not miss this opportunity to get coverage if they get caught up in a wave of last-minute shoppers.”

The current enrollment season is the fourth since the Affordable Care Act was launched in 2010. Following on campaign promises, President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have started the process to repeal and replace the mandatory health insurance program, known as Obamacare. But it’s still unclear exactly what a replacement program will look like.

“We encourage people to get signed up now to get as much health care as possible, while politicians are hemming and hawing,” said Kay Temple Kirk, a program manager at the Gender Health Center on 29th Street in Sacramento. “Get it while it’s there. … Get things taken care of, get your prescriptions, get signed up for (medical) procedures … in case the Affordable Care Act is repealed and an inadequate program is in its place.”

Since open enrollment started in November, Kirk said about 50 to 60 people have already signed up or re-enrolled at the health center, whose phones were ringing Tuesday with callers asking about health coverage.

Statewide, about 1.3 million Californians have re-enrolled since Nov. 1, and more than 327,000 new people have signed up for 2017 coverage, Covered California officials said last week.

Sites like nonprofit agency Sacramento Covered are open tonight until 7 p.m. Tuesday to get enrollees started on their coverage. Consumers can enroll online at CoveredCA.com or get free assistance in multiple languages by clicking on “Free Local Help to Enroll.” Consumers can also enroll by phone at 800-300-1506.

About nine of every 10 consumers get some type of financial assistance to help pay for premiums, according to Covered California officials. To qualify for financial subsidies, those signing up need to have valid identification, income verification such as pay stubs, proof of residence, Social Security numbers and birth dates for all household members.

Claudia Buck: 916-321-1968, @Claudia_Buck

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