March 31, 2014:
A “surge” in last-minute sign-ups gave Covered California more than 1.2 million on its rolls on the nominal last day to enroll, and was continuing through the late afternoon.
Nearly 1.21 million Californians had signed up as of 2 a.m. March 31, officials said, with 156,000 new sign-ups since March 24. Californians who start an application before midnight Monday — the announced deadline — but don’t complete it by the witching hour will have until April 15 to complete the process.
Monday afternoon, Covered California officials said they had begun logging off last-minute filers before they completed their applications, so the exchange’s computer system could accommodate even more people beginning the enrollment process. Both groups would then have until April 15 to finish the process.
An ebullient Peter Lee, Covered California’s CEO, noted that the health exchange has “set records on accounts created five of the last six days.” The California surge came as the federal Healthcare.gov web site continued to be troubled by down time and software glitches Monday.
More than six million people have signed on nationally to state or federal exchanges, which are a key element of the Affordable Care Act, so California accounts for roughly 20 percent of the national total.
Industry estimates so far put the percentage of actual enrollees — people who have paid for coverage — at about 80 percent to 85 percent of the total. If 80 percent of California’s wanna-be enrollees have actually paid their premiums, that would put the current enrollment total at about 960,000, a bit short of the perception-enhancing 1 million milestone.
But there’s no way of telling yet how many people have paid for coverage or how many people will be able to complete applications in time to qualify for coverage.
“At the end of the day, I believe we’ll have close to one million actual enrollments,” said Micah Weinberg, the Bay Area Council’s senior policy adviser and health care guru. But he expects it to take at least five years to fully establish the exchange and have it live up to its full potential as a mechanism to cover people who have been uninsured or underinsured in the state.