It's never a good time to go without health insurance, especially in the middle of a pandemic.
But 1.2 million Californians are heading into the new year without a health safety net.
Which is why Covered California is doing something it hasn't done before - extending the deadline for coverage to Dec. 30. Normally it's Dec. 15, with coverage starting Jan. 1.
"Because in the middle of a pandemic the thing we don't want to do is add stress to people who are already leading really tough lives," said Covered California executive director Peter Lee.
Lee says the organization mailed out 3 million face masks to promote the enrollment period. The Covered California website allows people to shop around for the right health plan for them and their family. About 90% of people who apply will get financial assistance.
"A lot of people have lost their jobs, lost insurance coverage, and so keeping our doors open longer, we don't want people waiting a month to have coverage," Lee said.
The unprecedented extension comes as COVID-19 infections and deaths are surging across California and the country.
"We want to leave no one uncovered in the middle of a pandemic so that is why we are leaning in right now."
But the current health crisis isn't the only reason people need medical coverage. Lee says other illness such as heart disease and diabetes need attention too.
Consumers can enroll by logging on to Covered California or calling (800) 300-1506.
"Within two minutes you can see what financial help you'll get and then what your health plan options are."
In Southern California alone, 718,000 people are eligible for enrollment.
Covered California extends deadline for 2021 health coverage