By Chad Terhune and James Barragan
8:34 AM PST, December 24, 2013
Try, try again.
That's what California and the federal health insurance exchange said to thousands of consumers Monday who were stuck in line for Obamacare policies--on their computer, phone or in person at sign-up locations.
The Covered California exchange officially kept Monday as the last day to enroll for coverage that begins Jan. 1. But it left the door open to people who started an application by Monday and made some attempt to get coverage before running out of time.
"We won't leave anyone behind," said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. "If you have made a good-faith effort to get started, you can finish it [Tuesday]."
Despite the troubles many consumers have experienced trying to enroll, California said about 77,000 people successfully signed up in private health plans over a three-day period, Friday through Sunday. That alone boosted its overall enrollment beyond 400,000 people since Oct. 1, excluding thousands more who qualify for an expansion of Medi-Cal.
Open enrollment continues through March 31 as part of the Affordable Care Act if people miss this week's deadline.
Los Angeles resident Sarah Adan said she tried enrolling at the state website, www.coveredca.com, but it kept crashing for her. So she went Monday to a Covered California kiosk at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw mall outside a Macy's department store.
But there was only one enrollment counselor working at the time and several people ahead of her in line. The application process was taking one to two hours in many cases Monday as the state's computer system slowed, counselors said.
“We don’t have time for this and there is only one person helping," said Adan, who left without signing up her family.
There were similar delays due to high demand at the Eisner Pediatric and Family Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles, which has been enrolling people for weeks.
Compton resident Beatriz Castro, 50, arrived for a Monday morning appointment to enroll. Two and a half hours later she still had not seen the insurance plans available to her due to problems with the state website.
Castro said she had visited the medical center twice before but left when she saw how busy it was.
Her husband works as a mechanic and receives insurance through his work. But she said adding the rest of the family to his health plan is too expensive, so Castro came searching for alternatives under the federal healthcare law.
“It all depends on how much it costs me," Castro said, "because with what my husband earns, we can’t spend too much money on insurance."
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