Covered California Sign-Ups Hit 140,000 Almost Halfway Into Enrollment Period

On Monday, Covered California officials announced that 140,000 people have enrolled so far during the enrollment period that started Nov. 1. That’s about halfway to the exchange’s lower-end expectation of 260,000 sign-ups by the end of this open enrollment period on Jan. 31, 2016.

Tuesday is the last day to sign up for health care insurance through Covered California for consumers who want coverage to begin Jan. 1, 2016. The deadline for Jan. 1, 2016, coverage is midnight tonight.  

James Scullary, information officer at Covered California, said in general consumers wait till a deadline looms before signing up. That’s just human nature, Scullary said.

“Usually it’s a slow and steady stream [of enrollment] at the beginning — and then there’s a surge at the end of all of the deadlines,” Scullary said.

Of the estimated 750,000 uninsured Californians who are eligible to receive federal subsidies for insurance purchases through the exchange, Covered California officials have estimated that from 260,000 to 500,000 people will sign up for new coverage before open enrollment ends Jan. 31, 2016.

The fact that enrollment has already surpassed the halfway mark for the lower estimate, Scullary said, is a really good sign about the possibility of reaching that higher estimate of half a million new enrollees.

“I don’t want to speculate, but we are obviously pleased that enrollment is so strong so far,” Scullary said. “It shows that the interest is still out there, the message is getting out to people … and certainly all of that interest and demand will just increase as open enrollment starts to come to an end. We are on track to meet our forecast, it is looking really good so far.”

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study estimated the uninsured household penalty would be $969 in 2016. That increased penalty likely will spur more intense interest in insurance through the exchange as the Jan. 31, 2016, deadline nears and more people learn about what they’re facing, Scullary said. 

“That’s almost $1,000 in terms of a fine, and that’s a check to the IRS for nothing,” Scullary said. “That’s money better spent for consumers, to get them covered, to protect them from [possible] high medical bills.

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