Amid Sign-Up Surge, Covered California Extends Enrollment Deadline

Ana Oliva, left, and Felix Portillo, of Los Angeles, getting insurance information in 2014. (Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Californians are signing up in higher numbers than they did last year for health plans sold on the state’s health insurance exchange, despite great uncertainty over the future of Obamacare.

More than 25,000 new consumers chose new Covered California plans in just two days earlier this week, exchange officials said Wednesday.

Because of the last-minute rush, Covered California officials have extended the enrollment deadline for coverage that begins Jan. 1. Consumers now have until midnight on Dec. 17 to choose plans. Coverage purchased after this Saturday’s deadline will start either on Feb. 1 or March 1.

Since open enrollment began Nov. 1, more than 153,000 new people have signed up for 2017 coverage, compared with 144,000 at this time last year, Covered California officials said. In addition, more than 1.2 million people with existing Covered California plans have renewed their coverage for next year.

President-elect Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the health reform law under which Covered California was established. The exchange, like others around the U.S., sells health coverage that comes with federal tax subsidies to help people of modest means pay the premiums.

Republican lawmakers say they want a repeal bill ready by Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, but that timetable may be too ambitious. Still, Obamacare enrollment has been surging in California and nationwide.

Peter Lee, Covered California’s executive director, said he brought his staff together the day after Election Day and told them not to be deterred by the upcoming change in in the White House.

“One of the things I said [is] ‘now’s not the time to be looking for a job; now’s the time to be doing your job.’ And that’s exactly what people at Covered California have been doing,” Lee said at a health symposium in Sacramento on Tuesday.

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

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