California gave many consumers until Feb. 20 to enroll in Obamacare coverage in anticipation of long lines this weekend.
The formal deadline for open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act remains Sunday. But, like last year, the Covered California exchange has granted extra time for anyone who tries to enroll but is unable to complete the process by Sunday.
Beyond Sunday, applicants can no longer sign up online on their own. Officials said after the weekend they must go through Covered California's call center, an enrollment counselor, insurance agent, county office or health plan enroller.
The state-run exchange also announced that more than 354,000 new enrollees have signed up since Nov. 15, pushing its overall enrollment to 1.3 million. California is trying to reach a goal of 1.7 million by next week.
Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said in an interview that the state's website has been upgraded to handle higher volume and he doesn't expect any significant computer troubles at the deadline like last year.
"We expect to see lines out the door this weekend," Lee said. "Even the best insurance agent can only see so many people in one day. That is why we're doing this safety valve to Feb. 20."
He added, though, that on "Feb. 16 the doors close for starting fresh."
After the sign-up period ends, people can still qualify for special enrollment if they move, lose job-based coverage or experience some other qualifying event.
Enrollment in Medi-Cal, the state's insurance program for the poor, is open year round.