Grace period issued to enroll for Covered California insurance

On the day of the deadline to sign up for Covered California health care assistance, the site and phone lines were jammed.
March 31, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
The rush is on for those of you who have not signed up for health coverage under the Afordable Care Act. People scrambled to get into the Covered California website to avoid paying a fine for not having proper insurance.

The deadline to sign up was supposed to be at midnight on Monday, but a new grace period has been issued. Covered California is not calling this a deadline extension for folks trying to sign up for Obamacare. They're calling it a grace period for people who have tried and failed to enroll online or by phone.

ABC7 News has learned so many people have been trying to get through to sign up for health coverage, there's no way everyone starting the process right now can finish by midnight. So, the state says you have until April 15 to reach a certified enrollment counselor in person to help you and those can be found on the Covered California website under "find local help."

"They need to be active right now, they need to find a certified insurance agent or enrollment counselor, eligibility worker to help them get to the finish line at this point," Covered California spokesperson Dana Howard said.

Even if you haven't started the enrollment process or have a password or username, you can still do that with an enrollment counselor in person. After Monday, if you try to log on through the website your application will be rejected.

Some technical problems have prevented last-minute users from signing up in states using the federal website. California's site has not seen that kind of problem.

Officials say more than 100,000 people are using the system at any given time.

This is really one of the largest enrollment events we have seen at the Bay Area Rescue Mission. A lot of people waited to be served by counselors. It's the same story across the state as folks tried to make that midnight deadline.

Volunteer Rocio Smith is hitting the streets of Berkeley to get the word out about Monday's deadline to enroll for Obamacare.

"People have forgotten this is the last day, so we have to remind them and make it easy for them," Smith said.

Smith is directing uninsured folks to the enrollment event at Berkeley City College.

"The biggest question is how can I enroll?" Sam Burd said.

Burd says his outreach group has enrolled more than 100 people through Covered California since Saturday.

Alameda resident Amy Beylerian tried completing the application online, but got stuck.

"Towards the end it seemed like so many people were trying to contact them for help that I could never get through," Beylerian said.

Berkeley resident Mary Prescop says she's healthy, but knows that could change in instantly.

"But I know anything could happen at any moment, so I know how important it is and hopefully I'll be able to find a plan that works for me," Prescop said.

Covered California call centers in the Bay Area have been swamped with calls from the public and there are reports Covered California's website has been running slow as more people try to enroll.

If you miss the enrollment deadline, you could pay an individual tax penalty of $95. For higher wage earners that could be 1-percent of your income and a much bigger fine.

An enrollment fair event is being held in Oakland between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, located at 388 Ninth St.

Bay City News contributed to this story.


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