It did not formally extend the sign-up deadline beyond Monday, as the Obama administration did for the 36 states using the federal health insurance exchange. But as high volume threatened to undermine the deadline-day attempts of thousands of consumers, the agency offered help for people who were trying to enroll.
Executive Director Peter Lee told reporters that Covered California will institute a "grace period" for those who attempted to get coverage Monday but were unable to sign up.
"We're going to help people get across the finish line," he said.
How to get there, however, is a bit fuzzy.
Lee did not commit to a date when that grace period would end but said the agency's goal was to have an insurance policy in place for everyone who tried to get one by Monday's deadline. Determining whether someone actually made an attempt to get coverage would be done on a case-by-case basis, he said.
Monday was the deadline to sign up for coverage so insurance policy would be in place by Jan. 1, and consumers have until Jan. 6 to pay their premiums.
Covered California has had a surge in the number of people signing up for coverage as the deadline approached. Lee said the number people who had signed up for an individual health insurance policy through the exchange had topped 400,000. The previously reported figure was 109,000 by the end of November.
The need to provide consumers some wiggle room became evident as Monday wore on, with complaints surfacing from people who were attempting to sign up for an insurance plan but were unable to do so.
Gene Nelson, an adjunct professor in the biomedical engineering department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, had been frustrated in his attempts to apply through the website and through Covered California's call centers.
He faced a variety of challenges on the website, including stalls, time-outs and messages warning of invalid user names and passwords that left him unable to even create an account.
When he contacted the call center for help, a recorded message told him to sign up through the website instead and then bounced him off the telephone call with a series of busy-signal beeps. He said he was not given the option to hold on the line for an available operator.
"It's impossible," he said.
Nelson, who will be 62 in January, said he had been without health insurance since 2009 and is trying to get coverage for him and his wife. He has not been called back to teach courses at Cal Poly and was not provided health insurance by the university even when he did teach last year.
He was skeptical about Covered California's offer of a grace period for those who were unsuccessful in signing up for coverage Monday.
"But that's predicated upon, among other things, getting the first step done so that I can apply. But I can't get the first step done, so I don't think it would apply," he said. "And I'm sure there will be a lot of people like me."