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Californians take advantage of special health insurance signup period

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The number of California residents who have taken advantage of a special enrollment period to opt for coverage in the state’s health insurance exchange continues to grow.

As of Monday, 33,000 residents had opted for plans during the special enrollment period, which began Feb. 23 and ends Thursday. The enrollment is available to California residents who were unaware of the tax penalty that is imposed on those who do not have health insurance. Those 33,000 new enrollees compare with 22,000 individuals who had tapped the special enrollment period as of April 12.

Under the 2010 health care reform law, the penalty for those not opting for coverage in 2014 was $95 per person, or 1% of household income, whichever is greater. The fee in 2015 is $325 per person, or 2% of household income, whichever is greater.

“Many consumers who just finished their taxes learned there is a tax penalty for being uninsured,” Peter Lee, executive director of the California exchange, Covered California, said in a statement. “If they act now, they can avoid an even steeper penalty for tax year 2015.”

In all, Covered California has about 1.4 million enrollees, making it the largest state-run health insurance exchange.