Flooded by last-minute demand for Obamacare coverage, California gave consumers until April 15 to enroll after thousands of people trying to meet Monday's deadline endured long lines and website troubles.
Monday had been the deadline to start signing up for coverage, but as the day wore on, officials saw that many would-be applicants, enrollment counselors and insurance agents couldn’t even log in to the Covered California exchange website.
A similar outpouring of interest was seen nationwide as open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act was winding down.
Under California's new policy, anyone who tried to enroll by Monday and faced difficulties now has until April 15 to finish enrollment. The state said no proof is required, so it's essentially the honor system.
But those applicants can no longer sign up online on their own. The state said they must go through the state's call center, an enrollment counselor, insurance agent, county office or health plan enroller.
Previously, applicants had to start an online account and take a few simple steps by midnight Monday in order to have more time to finish.
Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said this move wasn't a deadline extension.
"We can’t in good conscience turn people away who simply couldn’t get onto the website on the last day," Lee said.
“We were prepared for a last-minute surge of people coming to our website, but sometimes there’s only so much you can do operationally," he added.
People seeking extra time won't be asked for proof or documentation showing they tried to apply earlier, officials said.
"People can lie, but we don't think people will. We think Californians are honest people," Lee said.
Supporters of the healthcare law welcomed the additional time, given the last-minute problems.
"No Californian who tried to enroll should be frozen out of coverage, so this additional consideration is appreciated and necessary," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a consumer advocacy group.
The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been marked by a series of deadline extensions and abrupt policy changes, which have drawn intense criticism from the law's opponents.
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