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What You Need To Know About Today’s Obamacare Deadline

The state's online health insurance exchange Covered California.

Photo by Tarryn Mento

Above: The state's online health insurance exchange Covered California.

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Today is the deadline to sign up for health care insurance under the Affordable Care Act coverage – sort of.

The White House offered an extension last week for signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. It's more of a soft extension. Individuals who want insurance through the state's exchange, Covered California, should still take action today – March 31.

What's the deadline?

Covered California will honor applications started online or postmarked by 11:59 p.m. March 31. You'll then have until the end of the day April 15 to finish online applications and pick a plan. You'll need to pay your premium no later than April 25. There is no deadline for Medi-Cal sign-ups.

Any tips for last-minute applications?

When Covered California says "start an application" it actually means "complete three essential steps." You need to create an account, fill out the first page of the application and complete a page called "consent for verification." And I'll add a fourth step: hit save!

What happens if I miss the March 31 deadline?

You can still apply for insurance through the health plans themselves and private brokers, but you'll miss out on subsidies that could save you a lot of money. And, if you choose to take this route, you'll likely face a fine. The law only allows a three-month gap in coverage each year, meaning coverage should start April 1. Most insurance companies need a couple of weeks to activate your plan. Applying through Covered California will give you a grace period until May 1.

I have coverage, but what happens if I lose it after March 31?

Covered California will open a special enrollment period for you for major life events, including losing work or school-based coverage. It will also open enrollment to you if you get married, have a baby, move outside of your health service area or experience a drop in income and become eligible for subsidies.

How are the enrollment numbers looking? Do we need a lot of people to sign up today?

One of the reasons behind this soft deadline extension is that Covered California officials expect a surge of applications. I think they're happy to get them, but they've already exceeded their enrollment projections. They started out expecting at most 696,000 sign-ups. By March 15, they had just over a million. They also wanted to get 1 million people signed up for Medi-Cal. Last month they had 2.3 million.


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