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Covered California: health enrollment charging ahead 5 days before grace period ends

BAY POINT, CA - MARCH 28:  An attendee holds a flyer as she waits to register for helathcare insurance during a healthcare enrollment fair at Ambrose Community Center on March 28, 2014 in Bay Point, California. With less than one week to go before the deadline to sign up for healthcare, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) held a free healthcare enrollment fair to help people sign up for free and low-cost health coverage through Medi-Cal or Covered California.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
A woman holds a flyer as she waits to sign up for health insurance at a northern California enrollment fair in March.

Five days before the end of the grace period for health insurance sign ups, tens of thousands of Californians are racing to get coverage, said Peter V. Lee, executive director of the state-run insurance marketplace, Covered California.

The grace period began on April 1st; by April 9th, more than 70,000 Californians had signed up for new health policies, Lee said. 

"We’ve seen in the last nine days more people signing up for plans than [during] the entire month of November," Lee told reporters Thursday, adding, "we expect to have significantly more enrollment" by the end of the enrollment grace period on April 15th.

More than 1.2 million Californians had signed up during the official open enrollment period, which ran from Oct. 1st, 2013 to March 31st.

RELATED: More than a half million Californians still working on applying

In late March, the Obama Administration extended the open enrollment deadline, decreeing that those who tried to sign up by March 31st  could have until April 15th to finish the process. That prompted Lee to allow a similar extension in California. 

The latest tally of enrollment numbers follows on the heels of a record-setting day March 31st, when the Covered California website recorded 760,000 unique visitors. It also had more than 15 million page views. which was nearly seven times more page views than on Dec. 23rd, 2013, the prior record-setting day, Lee said.  Additionally, more than 1.1 million other low-income Californians have enrolled in low-or-no-cost health insurance through Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program.

"That means that all together, with Covered California coverage and Medi-Cal, we had more than three million Californians benefitting form the Affordable Care Act," Lee said.

RELATED: What the heck do all those insurance terms mean, anyway?

Lee said Covered California is sending more than 340,000 emails to California families that have yet to complete the application process on the website, reminding them about the April 15th deadline.  The email campaign has so far reached an estimated 600,000 Californians and will be followed by more emails through Tuesday, he said.

Those who are not exempt from the law and who miss the final deadline will likely face a tax penalty of $95 or one percent of their 2014 taxable income, whichever is greater.

RELATED:  Who is exempt  from the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate?