Obamacare enrollment event

Lourdos Leanos of North Hollywood, in baseball cap, and many others stand in line at the Panorama Mall in the northeast San Fernando Valley to sign up for Obamacare at a Covered California enrollment event ahead of Monday’s deadline. (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles Times / March 28, 2014)

The Covered California exchange said sign-ups have been building throughout the week with about 80,000 people picking a health plan Monday through Thursday. An additional 150,000 households created an online account and started the shopping process in the last three days, officials said.

That heavy volume was creating havoc, confusion and delays for many consumers, enrollment counselors and insurance agents trying to use the exchange’s website.

“The website is slow some of the time and waiting until Monday is a bad idea,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. “But it’s great news that we’ve still got so many people saying, ‘I want health insurance.'”

To ease the logjam, the state is giving people who start an application before midnight Monday until April 15 to finish enrollment. Officials provided a similar grace period in late December when a deluge of applicants wanting Jan. 1 coverage overwhelmed the exchange and insurance companies.

Overall, about 1.1 million Californians have already chosen a private health plan, part of 6 million people nationwide under the Affordable Care Act. An additional 1.5 million residents have been enrolled or deemed eligible for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program for the poor.