In response to a strong surge in demand, Covered California is giving consumers more time to sign up for health coverage that will begin on Jan. 1, according to state health officials. Over the past week, Covered California has seen more than 38,000 new consumers sign up for coverage, which means that as of Dec. 13 more than 182,000 new consumers have signed up for coverage since open enrollment began. Compared to the same time last year, when 156,000 had signed up, this enrollment marks an increase of 26,000, or 17 percent. Many of these new members are taking advantage of the fact that the cost of coverage is lower than it was last year for most consumers. “Covered California is seeing a huge influx of consumers, and we know that not everyone is getting through on the phone or is able to get an appointment with a certified enroller,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California. “We’re extending the deadline for Californians to get coverage starting Jan. 1 because we do not want to leave anyone behind. Our responsibility is to make sure we help every single person seeking to enroll get the coverage they need.” A recent Covered California analysis found that the net monthly premiums for enrollees who receive financial help are on average 10 percent lower than what new and renewing consumers paid last year. The lower prices are a result of more financial help being available for consumers who qualify for assistance. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is designed to protect consumers by providing more premium tax credits when premiums rise. “Covered California wants to make sure that consumers use the increased financial assistance that is available to help bring health care coverage within reach,” Lee said. “Covered California is here for you today, and we will be here for you tomorrow. Now is the time to sign up for health insurance that can protect you and your family.”. Consumers interested in learning more about their coverage options should go to www.CoveredCA.com where they can get help to enroll. They can explore their options and find out if they qualify for financial help by using the Shop and Compare Tool. They can also get free and confidential enrollment assistance by visiting www.coveredca.com/find-help/ and searching among 800 storefronts statewide, or more than 17,000 certified enrollers who can assist consumers in understanding their choices and enrolling, including individuals who can assist in other languages. In addition, consumers can reach the Covered California service center by calling (800) 300-1506. The above information was provided to The Signal via a Covered California news release.