Covered California Pushes for Renewals

On Thursday, Covered California officially launched a renewal effort for its 1.1 million enrollees who signed up during the first open enrollment period.

Those enrollees have until Dec. 15 to pay their premium to stay in coverage beginning Jan. 1, said Peter Lee, executive director of the exchange. If anyone re-enrolls and then decides they want a different policy, they can change coverage at any time, Lee said.

“If you’re happy with your plan, you don’t need to do a thing, you just pay the bill, you’re good,” Lee said. “If you want to shop around, we have the tools available online or with assisters to do that. Stability and consistency are good things, but we encourage you to shop for a better policy.”

Lee said the average premium rate in the exchange rose 4% from last year. “Some went up a little more, some actually went down, but the average doesn’t matter, the individual choice is what’s important. So some people will want to look around.”

Covered California yesterday also released a report on lessons learned from the first open enrollment period. The next open enrollment period is Nov. 15 – Feb. 15.

“The top lesson learned is the incredible response we saw from consumers,” Lee said. “We weren’t ready for it. Our call centers weren’t ready. We are changing what we’re doing going into 2015.”

The web portal has been improved to handle greater demand, the online chat function has been expanded and the online Spanish-language application has been improved, Lee said.

“And we have dramatically increased the number of people at the call centers,” Lee said.

This time around, he said, there are 1,300 people manning the phones, and 254 of them speak another language. That compares to about 400 call center workers at the opening of the first enrollment period.

“In many ways it will be harder during the second enrollment period,” Lee said. He said many of the remaining uninsured have learned to get by on no insurance, by not getting care until they have an emergency condition.

“It’s a culture of coping,” Lee said, “rather than a culture of coverage.”

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