Exchange Expects a Big Final Week, Allows April Completion of Paperwork

Covered California officials yesterday said the exchange will allow potential enrollees to finish their applications after the March 31 deadline — provided they started the application by midnight Monday. Enrollees will have until April 15 to complete the enrollment process.

That accommodation had to be made, said exchange executive director Peter Lee, because of the overwhelming interest Covered California is getting right now.

“On Tuesday we saw more accounts open than on any other day — even more than on the last day of enrollment in December,” Lee said.

That surge in interest is only likely to increase as Monday’s open-enrollment deadline approaches, he said.

“We know a lot of people are going to enroll right at the deadline,” Lee said. “We’ve seen huge interest, and we are committed to making sure people get across the finish line.”

Lee said the deadline will remain March 31, despite reports that the federal exchange might extend its deadline.

“We are not extending our deadline,” he said. “Our message is, ‘Don’t wait. Enroll now.’ You have between now and the end of Monday, midnight [to start enrollment]. If you miss the deadline, you could be subject to an IRS penalty for not having coverage. But you must start the application. It’s not an extension of the open enrollment process, but you can start the application and then you can finish it by April 15.”

According to a poll released yesterday by the Public Policy Institute of California, three-quarters of uninsured Californians said they would obtain coverage by March 31. So far, more than three million Californians have signed up for coverage through the exchange or under Medi-Cal expansion. That’s almost half the estimated seven million Californians who were uninsured in 2013.

“We are committed to getting you across the finish line by April 15,” Lee said. “We are making sure that, if there is stickiness in the system, we can get you across.”

Although March 31 — Cesar Chavez Day — is a state holiday, it’s “not a holiday for us,” Lee said. “We are open March 31 until midnight.”

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