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Covered California Closing in on One Million

Covered California officials announced yesterday that almost one million Californians have signed up for health insurance through the new exchange, far exceeding estimates.

“We are at more than 920,000 Californians who have picked a plan through the health benefit exchange,” Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said. “That has more than exceeded our base estimate.”

The original “enhanced scenario” estimate by UC-Berkeley researchers — if everything went optimally well during the first six-month enrollment period — was 560,000 signups. Exchange officials yesterday said 923,832 people have enrolled as of March 9.

According to Lee, 85% of those people who enrolled have also paid their premiums: “That’s almost 800,000 who have paid for coverage in California,” Lee said.

About 85% of the newly covered Californians are eligible for government subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, exchange officials reported.

More than 600 events are planned in California over the next couple of weeks to help drum up interest during the final push.

Lee said if Californians enroll by March 15, they would get coverage starting April 1. If people enroll between March 15 and the end of the month, that coverage would start May 1.

“We will not be extending the deadline,” Lee said. “March 31 is it.”

 People who are not covered by health insurance or eligible for Medi-Cal after the March 31 deadline, he said, are subject to a penalty.

“The open enrollment deadline is important,” Lee said. “What we’re seeing is huge interest, and we don’t want anyone to be left behind.”

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Capitol Desk