Six months after sign-ups began in a historic overhaul, Monday marks the end of open enrollment for Obamacare coverage this year.
Californians trying to sign up at the last minute are likely to encounter numerous delays applying on a state website or going to see an enrollment counselor or insurance agent.
In anticipation of those difficulties, the Covered California exchange has made it easier for consumers to meet the deadline under the Affordable Care Act.
The state is giving people until April 15 to finish their application if they take at least three steps to start the sign-up process on their own or with help.
First, applicants must create an online account at coveredca.com.
Second, people need to fill out the required information on the "apply for benefits" page and hit continue. Third, on the next page listing "consent for verification," click on save and exit. Consumers then have until April 15 to complete the application.
"We are absolutely committed to making sure people get across that finish line," said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California.
A separate federal website, HealthCare.gov, handles applications in 36 other states, not including California. The federal exchange website was down early Monday for technical fixes before being restored, officials said.
For more information on the state exchange, Covered California can be reached at (800) 300-1506. But be warned: wait times have hit 45 minutes to an hour during busy periods.
Most Americans are required to have health insurance in 2014 or they face a tax penalty. The penalty is $95 per adult or about 1% of their household income, whichever is greater.
Federal premium subsidies are available to an estimated 2 million Californians to help make coverage more affordable. That assistance is available to individuals earning up to $46,000 annually or up to $94,000 for a family of four.
A recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that Californians had already qualified for $2.3 billion in federal subsidies as of March 1. The average annual subsidy per enrollee was $3,060 in California, slightly above the national average.
As of late last week, 1.1 million Californians had picked a private health plan through the state exchange and about 85% of them had paid their premium.
Another 1.5 million residents have enrolled or been deemed eligible for Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program for low-income people.
The opportunity to get individual health insurance doesn't completely close Monday.
Some consumers with certain "qualifying life events" will be eligible for special enrollment. For example, people who lose their job, get married, have a baby or move to a new area may get to sign up after March 31.
Also, enrollment in Medi-Cal runs all year.Here are some enrollment events scheduled for Monday in L.A. and Orange counties: