San Francisco Chronicle by Victoria Colliver –
October 8, 2013:
More than 16,000 California families completed applications for health coverage in the first five days of operation of the state's insurance exchange, the new marketplace created by the federal Affordable Care Act.
Officials for Covered California, the state exchange, released numbers on Tuesday showing strong consumer interest in the new marketplace, which opened Oct. 1. They made the announcement to counteract reports of long wait times to reach call-center representatives and slow online performance for the agency's website.
Covered California's website received more than 987,000 unique visitors, and about 59,000 people called the agency's call centers, according to the official Oct. 1-5 tally. The completed applications represent some 28,700 individuals, and another 27,300 applications were started but have not been completed.
“These are big numbers, and they're proof of the pent-up demand for coverage that is here in California and also across the nation,” said Peter Lee, Covered California's executive director, who described the response as “phenomenal.”
Some consumers A live free online Roulette wheel can be very exciting. had reported being on hold for up to 40 minutes and had trouble logging in to the website and completing the sign-up process in the first couple days of operation.
Consumers waited an average of 15 minutes for help from representatives at the call centers in Concord and Rancho Cordova (Sacramento County). But Covered California officials said the wait time had dropped to less than 4 minutes by Friday. The agency also opened a third call center in Fresno on Monday.
Also on Monday, the exchange added an online directory of hospitals and doctors so consumers can compare insurers and see which ones include their health care providers. That feature had been delayed because the agency's staff did not want to add such a large file
while the site was struggling with problems related to high demand.
“People should do their homework,” said Nicole Evans, spokeswoman for the California Association of Health Plans, which represents the state's insurers. “They should make sure, even if they're sticking with the
same health plan, that their preferred doctor or hospital will
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be available through Covered California next year.”
Covered California is trying to enroll people who are uninsured or do not have health coverage through their jobs. The agency hopes to enroll 500,000 to 700,000 people who are eligible for federal subsidies to help pay for their coverage.
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Consumers can review their options anonymously before starting an application and can even change their minds before coverage begins, Lee said. Enrollment continues through March 31 but in order to have insurance effective on Jan. 1, applicants must sign up by Dec. 15.