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Covered California Q&A: Is Monday still the deadline to enroll?

Many Californians are confused by Obamacare, and news this week about changing enrollment deadlines may be giving people an even bigger headache.

Here are some answers to common questions as the final days tick down for enrollment under the Affordable Care Act.

What's the deadline to sign up for Obamacare in California?

It's still Monday, March 31. But the Covered California exchange has lowered the bar considerably.

The exchange said it will give Californians until April 15 to finish their application if they start signing up before midnight Monday.  Southland healthcare sign-up events.

How will the state know I started an application?

At a minimum, consumers must take at least three steps. First, create an online account at coveredca.com.

Second, fill out all the required information on the "apply for benefits" page and hit continue. Third, on the next page listing "consent for verification," click on save and exit.

Then applicants have until April 15 to complete the application and select a health plan.

Why April 15?

Covered California said it's concerned that a large number of people will show up at the last minute Monday and won't be able to finish enrollment in time.

The state website is already running slower due to heavy volume, and wait times for the call center and online chat function can be quite lengthy.

Are the rules for the federal exchange at HealthCare.gov different?

The Obama administration has granted a similar grace period if people start the application process by Monday.

But federal officials would not specify how long consumers would have to complete the process after March 31. To qualify for a federal extension, consumers will have to attest only that they started the process before the deadline.

Full coverage: Obamacare rolls out

Can I mail in a paper application to Covered California?

The state says applications must be postmarked by Monday to meet the deadline. But officials recommend that people enroll online to guarantee coverage starting May 1.

What happens if I miss the enrollment deadline?

You could end up paying a tax penalty of $95 per adult or 1% of your household income, whichever is greater, for being uninsured.

What if I lose my job and employer health insurance in May?

Some consumers with certain "qualifying life events" will be eligible for special enrollment. For example, people who lose their job, get married, have a baby or move to a new area may get to sign up after March 31.

Also, enrollment in Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program for low-income people, runs all year.

Where can I get help in person?

Check out these pages on the Covered California website for local enrollment events and a list of certified enrollment counselors and insurance agents available to help.

When does the next enrollment period start?

It's slated to begin Nov. 15.

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