Health care sign-ups extended

Covered California announced Wednesday that residents will have two extra weeks to enroll in an exchange health insurance plan as long as the online application process is started Monday before midnight.

Consumers who start an online application by 11:59 p.m. Monday will have until 11:59 p.m. April 15 to complete the application and select a plan for coverage.

“Covered California is not extending its deadline for applying for a health plan,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee in a news release. “However, we’re committed to helping all those who started an online application to cross the finish line.”

To start the application, consumers must take at least three steps. Applicants must create an online account at www.coveredca.com, fill out the required information on the “Apply for Benefits” page, and continue on the “Consent for Verification” page where the application can be saved and exited.

These applications must be completed by April 15 to avoid paying a penalty of up to 1 percent of annual income. Paper applications must be postmarked by Monday to meet the open-enrollment deadline.

After Monday’s deadline, consumers may be eligible for Covered California’s special enrollment period if they go through a “qualifying life event,” as defined by the Affordable Care Act. These events include getting married, having a baby or having a change of income that would affect a person’s eligibility for financial assistance.

Covered California reported that as of mid-March, more than 1 million people statewide had enrolled in a health care coverage plan. A rush is still expected in the final four days of open enrollment.

“We’ve been asking people for several weeks not to wait to the last minute to enroll,” said Anne Gonzales, Covered California public information officer. “It’s already happening, we’re already seeing high numbers, and we’re only expecting for it to crescendo these next few days.”

According to Gonzales, 50,000 applications were started Tuesday.

A March poll released Thursday by the Public Policy Institute of California, in which 1,702 adult California residents were surveyed, revealed that 75 percent of mostly uninsured Californians plan to obtain health insurance by the March 31 deadline.

The poll also showed that 74 percent of Latinos in the state said they plan to obtain insurance before the deadline, and 77 percent of Californians between ages 18 and 44 plan to do the same.

Covered California’s open enrollment for 2015 coverage will begin this fall. However, low-cost or no-cost coverage through Medi-Cal is available year-round.