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Californians who began health insurance applications for coverage starting Jan. 1 have until 8 p.m. Friday to complete their enrollment, exchange officials said.

Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee had promised customers who began applications by the Dec. 23 deadline that his agency would help get them over the finish line in time for coverage to start Jan. 1.

However, they won't be able complete applications online as part of the extension. Instead, customers will have to call the exchange's service center at (800) 300-1506, or, get in touch with a certified enrollment counselor or agent using the following link.

The information was relayed in a Christmas Eve posting on the exchange's Facebook page. On Thursday, a spokesman said incomplete applications must be handled by phone or by an agent because the web-portal for past-due policy requests is now closed.

Covered California was hit with a crush of applications in recent days as the first coverage deadline came and went. Earlier this week, Lee pegged the number of people who have selected a policy at more than 400,000, with tens of thousands enrolling each day.

Customers in need of doctors' appointments and prescription drugs at the start of next month are not finished after selecting a plan — they'll still have to pay their first premium by Jan. 6. The next enrollment deadline is Jan. 15 for coverage to begin Feb. 1. The first payment would be due Jan. 28.

The initial open-enrollment period extends through March 31.

PHOTO: Enrollment operators take phone calls during the launch of Covered California in Rancho Cordova on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton


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