SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – The agency overseeing California’s health insurance exchange offered a bit of breathing room for consumers who tried but failed to meet Monday’s deadline for coverage starting in the new year, as its website and call centers were overwhelmed by last-minute demand.
It did not formally extend the sign-up deadline beyond Monday, as the Obama administration did for the 36 states using the federal health insurance exchange. But as high volume threatened to undermine the deadline-day attempts of thousands of consumers, the agency offered help for people who were trying to enroll.
Executive Director Peter Lee told reporters that Covered California will institute a “grace period” for those who attempted to get coverage Monday but were unable to sign up.
“We’re going to help people get across the finish line,” he said.
How to get there, however, is a bit fuzzy.
Lee did not commit to a date when that grace period would end but said the agency’s goal was to have an insurance policy in place for everyone who “made a good faith effort” to get one by Monday’s deadline. Determining whether someone actually made an attempt to get coverage would be on a case-by-case basis, he said, but exactly how that would be done is unclear.
“We need to know you tried,” he said.
Monday was the deadline to sign up for coverage so insurance policies will be in place by Jan. 1, and consumers have until Jan. 6 to pay their premiums.
Covered California has had a surge in the number of people signing up for coverage as the deadline approached. Lee said preliminary data show the number people who had signed up for an individual health insurance policy through California’s state-run exchange had topped 400,000. The previously reported figure was 109,000 by the end of November.