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Covered California is offering a reprieve to consumers who try to sign up for health insurance by midnight today but can’t get it done in time because of the last-minute surge in volume on the agency’s website. Open enrollment in the state’s Affordable Care Act marketplace ends Tuesday.
“If you started the process, we’re going to get you across the finish line,” said Peter V. Lee, the executive director of Covered California. “You have to get online, go to www.coveredca.com and you’ve got to start enrolling.
“If you can show that you’ve logged in, but you weren’t sure whether you should choose Kaiser or Blue Shield, and you want to talk with an insurance agent, we ... will then say, ‘Go see an insurance agent on Wednesday or Thursday.’ We will give people until Friday to get across the finish line.”
A surge of consumers - more than 15,000 of them - signed up on Monday. Lee said it’s typical to see a lot of people waiting until the last week to get health insurance.
The sickest people sign up right away, he said, but many healthy people weigh their decision for some time, trying to determine whether they will roll the dice on whether they’ll need to see a doctor.
Lee’s typical advice to healthy consumers is that life can change in an instant, and he has mounds of statistics showing how otherwise healthy people benefited by buying coverage from Covered California or its agents. They displaced shoulders or broke their arms, and avoided having to make big payouts for medical care.
If consumers finish up their applications by Friday, they will have coverage starting Feb. 1. If you do not want to use the website, you can reach the Covered California service center at (800) 300-1506. It will be open until midnight Tuesday and from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. If you would rather speak to someone in person, Covered California has about 725 enrollment centers around the state. Find one at www.coveredca.com/find-help/.
Gov. Gavin Newsom urged Californians to get coverage, saying: “An estimated 1.1 million (uninsured) Californians are eligible for quality health care coverage, either through Covered California or Medi-Cal, so do not miss this chance to get coverage that will protect you and your family.”
The Covered California exchange began covering consumers in 2014, and since then more than 3.5 million people have purchased health insurance through it. Roughly 4 million others have gotten coverage through the state’s Medi-Cal program. Those gains have cut the rate of the uninsured in California to a low of 6.8 percent as of June 2017, down from 17 percent in 2013.