Enrolling in Covered Calif. Plans More Difficult Than Expected
California residents enrolling in health coverage through the state health insurance exchange encountered more obstacles than anticipated and found the process relatively confusing, according to a report released Monday by the California HealthCare Foundation, Kaiser Health News' "Capsules" reports. CHCF publishes California Healthline.
For the report -- which was conducted in February -- researchers surveyed through interviews and focus groups individuals who had signed up for exchange coverage between Oct. 1, 2013, and Jan. 31.
Participants said they were motivated to sign up for health insurance to:
- Comply with the law;
- Have more financial security; or
- Avoid a tax penalty.
However, they encountered several problems during their enrollment efforts, including difficulty:
- Reaching call center representatives;
- Calculating their annual income;
- Selecting a health plan; and
- Using the online chat program.
Some respondents also said they were surprised at the amount of documentation needed to enroll.
According to the report, problems were exacerbated for consumers who were applying for Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program. Many did not know details about the Affordable Care Act, such as the expansion of Medi-Cal.
In addition, enrollment counselors said they lacked adequate training and preparation for enrollment.
In response to the report, Frank Mecca-- executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association of California -- said, "I think we oversold simplicity," adding, "As it turns out, it is not as simple as we thought" (Gorman, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 4/15).
Enrollment Officially Ends
In related news, Covered California officially ended its first open enrollment period on Tuesday.
According to the Los Angeles Times, last-minute enrollments on Tuesday ran smoother than they did on March 31, the previous enrollment deadline before the exchange granted consumers a 15-day "grace period."
However, exchange spokesperson Anne Gonzales said that there still were "periodic slowdowns" on the website due to high volume but noted that no outages occurred (Terhune, Los Angeles Times, 4/15). She added that the peak hold time for individuals contacting the exchange's call centers was about 32 minutes on Tuesday (Sisson, U-T San Diego, 4/15).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.