BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — As expected, there were long lines of people outside Clinica Sierra Vista, waiting to be seen so they could enroll for health insurance under Covered California.
The deadline for open enrollment was Monday.
"Procrastinating at the last minute," offered 42-year-old Wevone Tucker of Bakersfield.
Tucker was hardly alone. There were thousands of people who, for whatever reason, had not yet signed up for health insurance as required by the new Affordable Care Act.
People could either obtain their own health insurance or purchase it through the government-subsidized Covered California, the state health exchange for what is commonly referred to as Obamacare.
"We knew we were going to be very busy," said Ana Velasquez, who runs the enrollment program at Clinica Sierra Vista.
But, enrolling online became an impossibility at times.
With as many as 80,000 visitors statewide on the Covered California website, it crashed. Enrollment counselors had to fill out applications on paper, delaying the process.
By late Monday afternoon, it was evident that not everyone would be able to at least start an application either online or by phone to meet the midnight deadline.
Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said the health exchange was implementing a new police effective immediately: Consumers who had tried but failed to get an application started now have until April 15 to do so.
But, they must apply through an enrollment counselor, an insurance agent or by calling a Covered California service representative and explain that they attempted to get through by March 31 but experienced difficulties.
Lee said it was not an extension for open enrollment.
Those consumers who already started an application but have not yet completed it also have until April 15.