News Column

Covered California Gets Under Way

October 1, 2013

Susan Abram, Daily News

Covered California, the Golden State's health exchange, got a rocky start Tuesday morning, users report.

Oct. 01--The launch of key provisions in the Affordable Care Act led to glitches in websites and phone lines in various parts of the country this morning, including long wait times reported by some users in California.

California officials said the phone lines were open and the website operational, though some individuals were reporting on social media frustration with attempts at access, with one person, for example, tweeting she spent 33 minutes on the phone trying to get through, then gave up; and another reporting four or five failed attempts to access the website.

Covered California executive director Peter Lee said by 9:30 a.m., the service center had logged 30,000 calls, with 1,200 in the queue, and a four percent abandonment rate, with 150 customer service representatives manning the lines.

"Our phone lines are humming, our website is live, and we stand with thousands of Californians across the state as we kick off our effort to help educate and enroll millions of currently uninsured Californians," Lee said this morning in a written statement.

"Here, and in every state in the nation, health care marketplaces are ushering in a new era in U.S. history, one that will provide its citizens with the health care they need, when they need it, through high-quality, affordable insurance. This is truly a historic day."

Covered California is a state-run online market exchange that lists health insurance plans; today it launched an updated website that will help uninsured residents enroll in low-cost health insurance beginning today through March 30. Coverage begins on Jan. 1.

The exchange offers 12 health insurers, including the state's largest, such as Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield and Kaiser Permanente.

In a number of other states throughout the country, including New York and Rhode Island, websites went down this morning as they were overwhelmed with public demand, while others weren't ready on time for the launch. The federal government's site -- used for residents whose states don't have their own program -- also reported long waits for access and other glitches in the face of overwhelming demand.

Officials launched Covered California at a service center this morning in Rancho Cordova, then planned to hold events in San Francisco, overlooking the Bay Bridge; at California State University, Fresno, in San Diego; then at Los Angeles' Union Station.

In California, at least 5.3 million people could be eligible for coverage and at least 2.6 million eligible uninsured may be eligible for tax subsidies to help pay for health care coverage. Those subsidies will be available for individuals earning up to $46,000 and for families with incomes of up to $94,200.

By the end of the first open enrollment which goes until March 30, Covered California expects to have enrolled between 487,000 and 696,000 subsidy-eligible residents.

Although consumers can purchase insurance directly from brokers, only those who go through the exchange are eligible for the subsidies. In Los Angeles County, for example, an estimated 779,000 are eligible for subsidies through the exchange. In San Bernardino, at least 341,000 people qualify.

For those who don't qualify for subsidies, Covered California provides a rate chart for different areas and age groups to consider a range of plans, offered by Health Net, Anthem, Molina Healthcare, L.A. Care, Blue Shield, and Kaiser Permanente.

Others who qualify for Covered California may include those who have insurance through a job for themselves, but not for a spouse or children.


(c)2013 the Daily News (Los Angeles)

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Original headline: California's Obamacare program launches today

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Source: (c)2013 the Daily News (Los Angeles)

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