Covered California sign-up events will be held this weekend in Fresno

The Fresno BeeMarch 28, 2014 

The deadline to sign up for health insurance to avoid a tax penalty this year is Monday.

And finding an on-site place to enroll could save a lot of time and frustration for people who have waited to the final days to enroll.

In Fresno, enrollment help will be available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at the WeConnect Event at the Fresno Fairgrounds.

Kaiser Permanente also is extending hours at its Shop KP retail store at 3676 W. Shaw Ave. in northwest Fresno. The store will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and Sunday.

Covered California officials have said call centers for the state's health benefit exchange will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, Sunday and Monday to help consumers. But the exchange officials also have warned of long wait times to speak with enrollment counselors.

With thousands of people expected to enroll this weekend and Monday, the heavy volume of callers could trigger a repeat of what consumers experienced in December, when they couldn't get through to the centers and couldn't complete enrollment online at because the electronic system overloaded and crashed.

Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California, said last week in Fresno that Monday's deadline would not be extended. But on Wednesday, the agency said those who start an application before midnight Monday will have until 11:59 p.m. on April 15 to complete it.

But consumers must have taken the following steps by the deadline:

  • Create an online account.
  • Fill out all required information on the "Apply for Benefits" page and click "Continue." After clicking on "Continue," individuals will be taken to the "Consent for Verification" page, where they need to click on "Save & Exit" or "Continue."
  • Return to the online account no later than April 15 to complete the application and select a plan.
Covered California customer service representatives can be reached at (800) 300-1506.

And consumers were reminded that they must make their first premium payment to their selected health insurance company by the due date to avoid the tax penalty.

Paper applications must be postmarked by March 31 to meet the open-enrollment deadline for 2014 Covered California plans.

Low-income residents eligible for Medi-Cal do not have an open-enrollment deadline. The state-federal insurance for low-income residents accepts applications year-round.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6310, or @beehealthwriter on Twitter.

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