Covered California said Tuesday it is giving consumers another reprieve to finish health insurance applications.
Consumers who began an application by Feb. 15 but were unable to complete the process or tried to start an application will have until this Sunday to enroll, said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state’s insurance marketplace.
The decision to extend enrollment aligns the state with the federal government’s announcement on Monday that it would allow consumers until Feb. 22 to complete applications, Lee said.
“We didn’t want to confuse people,” Lee said. “But it’s very important to note that through this entire process, people cannot do this on their own now. They need to find a Covered California storefront, a certified insurance agent or enrollment counselor to help them.”
About 474,000 Californians made the Feb. 15 deadline to enroll, Lee said. And on Sunday, about 36,000 applications were received, the largest volume of any day since open enrollment began on Dec. 15.
But callers to the Covered California service centers experienced a 45-minute wait on Sunday, he said. Now, the extension of the deadline to this Sunday will give those consumers and others who tried to enroll a chance to have coverage, he said.
“It’s a sad testament that people do wait until the last minute,” he said. But Covered California also is considering whether it will allow late applications from people who face a tax penalty this year. “We saw, in thousands of cases, people walked across the street from a tax adviser to enroll,” Lee said.
People who do not have insurance coverage in 2015 will be subject to a $325 per person fee, or 2% of income, whichever is greater. The fee for 2014 was $95 per person, or 1% of income.
Gordon Paul, a certified insurance agent in Fresno, had a full office this past weekend and expects a rush this weekend. “I was kind of taken aback by the number of people who came in Sunday,” he said. “Human nature is people just put it off to the last second.”