Health

Last-minute enrollment rush forces Covered California rule change

A worker helps an applicant fill out paperwork during a healthcare enrollment fair at the Bay Area Rescue Mission on March 31, 2014 in Richmond, California. SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) held the fair to help people sign up for free and low-cost health coverage through Medi-Cal or Covered California on the final day before the sign-up deadline.
A worker helps an applicant fill out paperwork during a healthcare enrollment fair at the Bay Area Rescue Mission on March 31, 2014 in Richmond, California. SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) held the fair to help people sign up for free and low-cost health coverage through Medi-Cal or Covered California on the final day before the sign-up deadline.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The last-minute flood of people trying to sign up for health insurance is threatening to overwhelm Covered California’s website. In response, the state insurance marketplace has decided to allow people who are unable to open an account before midnight Monday to finish their application with a certified enrollment counselor or insurance agent by April 15th.

RELATED: Covered California: 'huge surge' in health insurance signups as deadline nears

Covering California series icon 2013

Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said his agency’s site is experiencing "unprecedented" volume, with around 80,000 users per hour, and 7.7 million page views by 5 p.m. Monday.

Previously, the site’s biggest single day had 1.9 million page views, Lee said. More than 420,000 unique visitors had come to the site as of 5 p.m., and that figure could reach one million by midnight, he added.

That level of traffic caused the website to run "dramatically" slower, and led to periodic system outages, Lee said.

Covered California will rely on an honor system for its last-minute policy adjustment, he noted. While acknowledging that "people can lie" about having tried to set up an online account Monday, Lee said that, "we think Californians are honest people."

People seeking help can reach out to Covered California Service Center representatives, certified enrollment counselors, certified insurance agents, and county eligibility workers, the agency said in a statement. The Find Help Near You page on the Covered California website provides information on how to locate these people, Lee said.

"We are absolutely confident" that the enrollment counselors and insurance agents will be able to handle the extra work generated by Monday’s decision, he added. 

Lee said earlier Monday that more than 1.2 million people had signed up for health plans through Covered California since open enrollment began October 1st, 2013.