He said the agency will be "looking actively" at people who might not have understood there was a penalty. "Do we make a special provision for them between now and the end of tax season?" he said.
Lee stressed there has been no decision, that Covered California is focusing now on getting through open enrollment, "but this is a major issue and we're going to be looking at this in the next week or two."
Lee said the move would not require action by its board. "Covered California has the authority to adopt special enrollment criteria if consumers didn't have the opportunity and didn't have the information to enroll," Lee said.
Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, an advocacy group, seemed intrigued by the idea. "We were never big fans of the open enrollment period to begin with," he said.
Wright said that an additional enrollment period "would attract generally healthy people into coverage," arguing that people who are sick are likely already in the system.
Wright said there was no federally mandated open enrollment period. His agency had advocated at the federal level to tie the open enrollment more closely to the tax season. The current open enrollment started Nov. 15 and runs through Sunday. "You lose a lot of time during the holidays," Wright said, "because no one is focused on (health insurance)."
Nicole Evans, spokeswoman for the California Association of Health Plans, said, "This is the first we've heard of it," and declined to comment as the organization had not received any "official communication" from Covered California.
Last year's open enrollment ran more than six months, Wright pointed out. The open enrollment period "is not handed down in stone. We can take a look at it," he said.