‘We will not be extending deadline’

Despite widespread speculation that the March 31 deadline for Obamacare would be pushed back, Covered California says that won’t be happening.

Peter Lee of Covered California health exchange“It’s time to get the word out,” Covered California executive director Peter Lee, left, wrote March 17. “Californians have until March 31 to be part of making history. We will not be extending the deadline.”

The White House, however, indicated that those who had technical problems meeting the first-quarter deadline would get some kind of extensions. Those who simply wait too long or ignore the deadline, however, will be subject to penalties for the uninsured that come due in a year.

The open-enrollment period will have lasted six months at that point. While the federal Healthcare.gov web site had severe and well-publicized problems, the California Obamacare operation’s site has been relatively trouble free by comparison — even with a recent five-day outage for enrollments.

The federal deadline originally was in mid-February. The six-week extension was announced in late October, amid the scandal over the botched Healthcare.gov rollout.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said people who tried and failed to sign up on the federal site would have some kind of “special enrollment.”

Covered California said it planned “hundreds of enrollment events” in the final two weeks of 2014 enrollment for private health care insurance. Almost all policies sold via the California insurance marketplace are subsidized. Those who remain uninsured but are ineligible for financial support also can turn to individual insurance carriers for policy sales.

Covered California, meanwhile, announced that it had passed the 1 million signup milestone.

“This is an amazing accomplishment,” Lee blogged, “and it means that with two weeks to go we have exceeded the highest ‘enhanced forecast’ for the entire open-enrollment period.

Those who sign up in the latter half of March will get coverage beginning May 1. They will have to pay their first month’s premiums by April 25. Covered California has said about 85 percent of those who signed up for insurance have made their first month’s payments.

So what happens next?

Lee says:

Throughout 2014 we will be promoting enrollment for those who leave their job or have another major life change, and Medi-Cal enrollment is year round. And we’re already planning for the next open-enrollment period coming this fall.

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