County Pulse: Covered California reports a late rush to enrollment

Posted by Ken Carlson on December 20, 2013 

    alternate textKen Carlson
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: County government, health and medicine, air quality, the environment and public pension systems
    Bio: Ken Carlson has worked 13 years for The Bee, covering local government agencies in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. His in-depth reporting has focused on access to health care and public employee pensions.
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The Covered California health exchange reported that consumers rushed to enroll in health plans as a deadline approached for getting coverage starting Jan. 1.

From Monday through Wednesday, more than 53,000 people selected a health plan through Covered California, the public entity said. Monday is the last day to enroll for those wanting their coverage to start with the new year.

Covered California, the federally funded exchange and spearhead for the Affordable Care Act in our state, reportedly enrolled 109,000 people in October and November, and almost 50,000 signed up for health plans the first week of this month. People are not truly covered until they make an initial payment to the insurance plan.

Don’t expect this late push for enrollment to be any smoother than the glitch-filled kickoff in early October. The exchange has run into plenty of other problems this fall, such as the discovery this month of 25,000 paper applications no one had entered into the system.

Peter Lee, director of Covered California, suggested that applying online is the fastest way to enroll for those trying to beat the deadline. The exchange at is extending its service center hours this weekend to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

People also can sign up through certified insurance agents or enrollment counselors. On North McHenry Avenue in Modesto, Kaiser Permanente has a store where people are assisted with navigating the Covered California online system or shopping for other health plans. Don’t be surprised if you’re steered toward Kaiser plans. The Shop KP store is at 3848 McHenry Ave., Suite 325, in the shopping center anchored by Walmart; posted hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Those looking for subsidized coverage generally need to bring a previous tax form, pay stub and personal info, such as a Social Security number.

Some insurers volunteered to extend their deadline for receiving initial payments to Jan. 10. Those who enroll should watch for an invoice from the insurance plan before Jan. 1. The California Association of Health Plans said they should make the payment directly to the health plan, not Covered California.

Starting in 2014, the federal law signed by President Barack Obama in March 2010 requires that most Americans have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. For those not anxious about coverage starting in January, the open enrollment period continues through March 31.

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