Last chance for Obamacare ends Tuesday for most Californians

Los Angeles Times assistant business editor Pat McMahon and healthcare reporter Chad Terhune discuss the end of the first open enrollment for Obamacare in California after many deadline extensions and grace periods.

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After many deadline extensions and grace periods, Tuesday will mark the end of the first open enrollment for Obamacare in California.

California’s health insurance exchange is encouraging thousands of people who have started an application to finish before midnight Tuesday.

March 31 was originally the sign-up deadline. But the enrollment website for the Covered California exchange was swamped that day and kept crashing.


That prevented thousands of consumers, enrollment counselors and insurance agents from completing the application process as part of the Affordable Care Act.

In response, state officials extended a grace period until Tuesday for anyone who had already started an application or ran into last-minute problems.

Covered California said last week it had sent about 340,000 emails to households who had created an online account but never finished enrolling. On March 31 alone, according to the state, more than 115,000 individuals and families opened accounts on the exchange.

People who are already in the state’s computer system can finish signing up on their own online. Others who couldn’t get that far must apply through the state’s call center, local enrollment counselors, certified insurance agents, county workers or health plan employees.

FULL COVERAGE: Obamacare rolls out

Consumers can find information about in-person enrollment help at


“We are working to be sure everyone who wants and needs insurance will complete the process in time,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California.

Lee said the state isn’t expecting any technical problems this week that would merit another extension or grace period.

In the first nine days after the March 31 deadline, more than 70,000 people picked a health plan and wrapped up their enrollment. Given that response thus far, Lee anticipates that state enrollment will exceed 1.3 million people after Tuesday.

Nationally, 7.5 million Americans have enrolled through online exchanges under the health law while many more have purchased individual coverage outside the government marketplaces. Consumers have to use the government-run exchanges in order to receive premium subsidies based on their income.

In California, 1.5 million people have already enrolled or been deemed eligible for an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program for lower-income residents.

The open enrollment deadline doesn’t apply to Medi-Cal, which accepts people all year.

And people who experience a “qualifying life event” such as moving to a new area or losing their health insurance at work may be eligible for special enrollment in the state exchange.


The federal healthcare law requires most Americans to have health insurance starting this year or face a tax penalty.

The next open enrollment period, for 2015 coverage, doesn’t begin until November.


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