California offers 'grace period' for those who can't finish insurance enrollment by midnight

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Covering California series icon 2013

Covered California is providing a "grace period" for those who started the health insurance sign-up process Monday and for reasons beyond their control can not finish before Monday's midnight deadline for plans that start Jan. 1st.

Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee emphasized that "you need to enroll today" to get a plan that starts January 1st. But he acknowledged that the Covered California website is working slowly because of very heavy traffic, and the state's three call centers are experiencing long wait times for the same reason. So for those who "through no fault of their own" are unable to finish the enrollment process before midnight, "we're going to get them across the finish line," Lee said.  

He compared the grace period to election day: if you are in line when the polls close, you still get to vote.

Lee said that there is a huge rush of last-minute applicants looking to enroll in a plan that starts Jan. 1. He said that a total of more than 77,000 people signed up for a policy over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Friday alone, more than 29,000 signed up for a plan, the biggest single-day enrollment so far, according to Lee.

Only 30,000 people signed up in the entire month of October.

Covered California's preliminary numbers indicate that since the marketplace opened on Oct. 1, more than 400,000 have enrolled in a plan, Lee said.

Anastasia Dawson, associate director of policy at the state Department of Health Care Services, said her agency is still firming up its numbers, but its preliminary tally shows that roughly the same number of people have signed up for Medi-Cal through Covered California.

Open enrollment does not end with this deadline. People who enroll after Dec. 23rd, but by Jan. 15th, will have policies that take effect February 1st. Those who sign up between Jan. 16th and Feb. 15th will have policies that take effect March 1st. Those who enroll between Feb. 16th and March 15th will have plans that start on April 1st, and the policies for those who enroll from March 16th to March 31st will start May 1st.

Correction: This story was amended on Dec. 23, 2013 to clarify an earlier version. that said the federal government had given consumers until Tuesday to start the enrollment process.

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