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covered_california_event.jpgMore than 150,000 people have signed up for Covered California health insurance in the past week, bringing total state enrollment to roughly 1.2 million and slowing the online portal to a crawl as residents rush to beat a midnight deadline.

Meanwhile, Medi-Cal has enrolled approximately 1.5 million new members though mid-March.

Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said the number of household accounts opened since last week totaled about 390,000, including 123,787 on Saturday and Sunday.

"We are seeing more accounts open than any day ever. And we are seeing that today with a huge amount of interest on the site, and it is causing the website to be quite slow," Lee said.

The exchange is working on several ways to accommodate the spike. With about 12 hours left in the first open-enrollment period, the state exchange is placing a high priority on allowing people to begin their applications and then return to complete them by April 15.

Some customers will get a "congratulations" note telling them they have started the application process but because of the high demand they will not be able to finish the process Monday, Lee said. Officials have switched off the "preview plan" tool because of lagging performance but will retain the "shop and compare" function.

Despite hiring on 250 additional people, wait times at customer service call centers averaged 42 minutes in the last week and about 70 minutes over the weekend. A number of enrollment events are taking place across the state, including in Sacramento, Oakland and Los Angeles.

The SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West union is hosting two "enroll-a-thons" Monday at its Sacramento office, 1911 F St., from 7 a.m. to midnight. For details, call ( 888) 920-4517. See video below.

Affordable Care Act sign-ups: Where to get help before March 31 deadline

Covered California's website and call centers also will have extended hours, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

In addition, consumers can call a licensed insurance agent or go to health care websites, such as eHealthInsurance.com, which is extending its call center hours through midnight Monday (800) 977-8860.

What You'll Need: Whether enrolling by phone, online or in person, every individual family member should have: proof of identity (photo ID, driver's license, passport); proof of address (utility bill or postmarked mail); income information (two paystubs or recent tax return); proof of citizenship (birth certificate, permanent resident card, or naturalization certificate). Each person enrolling also must provide date of birth, Social Security number and ZIP code.

PHOTO: Karla Sanchez, 31, of North Highlands holds her son, Luis Marcial, 4, who naps in her arms while she makes her choice for insurance coverage at the SEIU union hall on Monday. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench



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