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    Last Minute Reprieve For Some On CA Exchange

    By Chad Terhune and Barbara Feder Ostrov

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    Covered California, the state’s insurance exchange, announced Friday that it was extending its enrollment deadline until Feb. 6 for people who had officially begun the process of signing up by Sunday.

    Exchange officials said they extended the Sunday deadline to accommodate a surge in enrollment in the previous week involving “tens of thousands” of consumers.

    As of Jan. 27, the exchange reported that more than 329,000 new consumers had signed up for coverage during the third annual enrollment period, which is within the estimate of the exchange’s estimate of 295,000 to 450,000 new enrollees.

    “Will we hit the 450,000?” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. in an interview with California Healthline Friday. “I’m not sure.  But have we got enough people in and will we continue to get enough renewed to have a very good risk pool? I’m very confident of that.”

    “One of the reasons we have talked [enrollment] ranges is because every crystal ball is a cloudy crystal ball,” he said.

    Most people who fail to sign up by the deadline face tax penalties of $695 per adult, plus $347.50 per child, up to a maximum of $2,085 for a family, or 2.5 percent of family income in excess of 2015 income tax filing thresholds.

    After open enrollment ends, consumers may sign up only if they have a life-changing event such as getting married, having a child or moving. Enrollment in Medi-Cal, the government program for lower income people, is year-round.

    With renewals and new enrollees, Covered California appears on track to have about 1.5 million enrollees, but the final tally in the weeks ahead will depend on how many people actually pay their premiums. In addition, the numbers churn as people leave the exchange for employer coverage, Medi-Cal or drop out altogether.

    “The arbitrary numbers don’t matter,” Lee said. “What matters is the mix of people involved for the stability of premiums.”

    Lee acknowledges that reaching more middle-class consumers who receive less in subsidies remains a challenge. Many consumers say health insurance remains unaffordable, but he said going without coverage is risky.

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