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Critical Times for State Health Exchange

2014 is here.

That’s especially true for Covered California, which circled Jan. 1, 2014 on its calendar years ago and now has a short time to finish signing people up for coverage before that deadline hits.

The key target date for the health benefit exchange is Dec. 23, the last day Californians can sign up for Covered California health insurance and be eligible for benefits starting Jan. 1.

People who sign up by Dec. 23 will have until Jan. 5 to start paying premiums in California, an extension recently approved by the exchange board. Coverage will start later for Californians who sign up after Dec. 23. Open enrollment continues until Mar. 31, 2014.

For small business owners looking to join through the Small-Business Health Options Program — known as SHOP — there is no early deadline to enroll. The Dec. 23 deadline is for individual policies only; employers have until Dec. 31 to enroll their employees for benefits that start Jan. 1.

Exchange officials said there was a spike in enrollment during the first week of December and they expect that surge to increase significantly until Dec. 23.

In the first two months of open enrollment, the exchange reported 109,236 enrollees. In one week in December, officials said they signed up half again as many as in October and November combined — from Dec. 1 to Dec. 7, officials said, another 49,708 completed the enrollment process.

That brings the total of enrollees to 156,143, through Dec. 7.

The total is slightly different than those two numbers added together. The difference between the added total of 159,004 and the official total of 156,143 is roughly 3,000 enrollees. The change in numbers is based on:

  • Individuals who changed their status — that is, canceled enrollment;
  • Consolidation of duplicate records — in some cases, individuals enrolled twice or enrolled in multiple metal tiers; and
  • Change in eligibility, as some individuals moved, died, were incarcerated or gained employer-based coverage.

The exchange will contact by phone all Californians who started but did not finish the enrollment process as well as those who expressed interest at any Covered California fairs and events, exchange officials said.

At dozens of events throughout the state in December, the exchange set up a presence to encourage sign-ups. Many events were holiday celebrations and tree-lighting ceremonies but the exchange also spread the word at a number of events at libraries.

The national campaign to drum up interest in the exchanges and the Affordable Care Act tried a different direction — a rap video using an Obama look-alike.

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Capitol Desk Covered California