Key sign-up deadline now Dec. 22

Citing “a strong surge in demand,” Covered California has extended its deadline for buying health insurance that begins Jan. 1.

health care instrumentConsumers now have until Dec. 22 to sign up for full coverage in 2018.

The state Obamacare operation has pushed back its sign-up deadlines several times in recent years, allowing latecomers to get coverage they may have otherwise missed — and slightly padding the closely watched enrollment figures.

Covered California’s open enrollment officially ends Jan. 31, unless another extension is granted. In many states, the deadline is Dec. 15, but California was allowed to extend the period.

As of Dec. 13, more than 182,000 new consumers had signed up for coverage since the open enrollment period began, Covered California said Dec. 14. That compares with 156,000 in the same period last year.

Consumers who sign up for coverage after Dec. 22 will see their coverage start Feb. 1 at the earliest or March 1 at the latest.

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