SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - There's talk that the Obama administration is getting set to extend the deadline for people to sign up for taxpayer-subsidized health coverage, but that deadline extension won't apply here in California.
With five days left to enroll in a Covered California health insurance plan, the exchange is urging consumers to sign up before Monday's deadline if they want to get affordable health care coverage.
"If you start the application process, we are going to give consumers until midnight on April 15 to finish the application," Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said.
If Californians, don't sign up, exchange officials say they will not only miss out on the peace of mind that comes with coverage, but they also could find the Internal Revenue Service contacting them with a request to cough up some cash.
"If you miss the March 31 deadline, you could face a tax penalty from the IRS for not having coverage. If you miss that deadline, you could go the rest of the year without having health insurance coverage until the next open enrollment period comes, which will be next November," Lee said.
Covered California says they are seeing more and more interest every day since they began open enrollment last October 1. In fact, Tuesday set a record.
"We have more individuals open accounts at coveredca.com than in any single day over the last six months. More than 50,000 households opened accounts to start the process," Lee said.
The state has added phone capacity and hired more call center workers, but average wait times are still exceeding 30 minutes. In recent weeks, a third of callers got a busy signal and about half couldn't get through and just hung up.
"Responsiveness of the website is slower than we'd like… sometimes the page loads are slower than we want," Lee said.
Still, Covered California's executive director is confident he will get everyone who applies by the deadline taken care of.
"We hope it plays out over the next five days where every Californian talks to a friend, a family member and makes sure they're not left behind in this historic opportunity," Lee said.
Once all of the application is completed, the health care coverage kicks in on May 1.