Covered California Struggling With Demand at Website, Call Centers
Covered California is struggling to deal with increased demand on its call centers and website as the Dec. 23 deadline to purchase health coverage for next year approaches, according to an exchange spokesperson, U-T San Diego reports (Sisson, U-T San Diego, 12/5).
Last month, Covered California officials announced that nearly 80,000 state residents had enrolled in health coverage through the state insurance exchange.
In November, an average of 2,700 residents enrolled through the exchange each day, compared with 700 daily in October (California Healthline, 11/22).
About 140,000 state residents appear to have qualified for Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, according to the Los Angeles Times (Terhune, Los Angeles Times, 12/5).
Details of High Demand
Larry Hicks, an exchange spokesperson, said the volume of users on the website and call centers "is greater now than at any point since Oct. 1 when enrollment began."
For example, Hicks said 17,000 calls were received at Covered California call centers during a 50-minute period on Wednesday (U-T San Diego, 12/5).
Average wait times for the call centers reached 25 minutes last week, compared with 18 minutes the previous week.
To address the long wait times, the exchange:
- Has added staff to call centers, making a total of 600 employees assisting customers; and
- Opened a new call center in Fresno in late November.
In addition, the Covered California website has continued to experience problems in recent weeks, including:
- Giving users an error message when they attempt to "check out" after choosing a health plan (U-T San Diego, 12/5);
- Long wait times; and
- Showing users incorrect premium estimates.
Officials said they are working to address the issues (Los Angeles Times, 12/5).
Hicks said, "More people are coming [onto the website] now, not out of curiosity, but to actually enroll, so of course that has probably slowed some things down."
Backlog of Paper Applications
Meanwhile, the exchange is working to process a backlog of about 25,000 paper applications that were filed in October and November.
On Thursday, the California Association of Health Underwriters expressed concern over whether the exchange would have time to process the applications by Dec. 23, since they each take about 90 minutes to re-file through the computer system.
CAHU President Sam Smith said, "Agents are fully committed to working with Covered California to resolve this crisis" (Los Angeles Times, 12/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.