Covered California fixes glitch, sends out thousands of corrected letters

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The head of Covered California said Saturday that the agency is sending corrected letters to tens of thousands of people after sending out earlier versions that contained blank spaces and inaccurate information about their health insurance applications. 

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At the same time, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said his agency won’t completely clear its backlog of paper applications by Monday – the deadline to enroll for policies that start January 1st.

In an appearance at AltaMed Health Insurance Resource Center in east L.A., Lee said his staff has corrected and updated the  letters that were sent to nearly 114,000 people. The new letters are "on their way out the door," he said. "We fixed the system so there’s no more bugs in new notices."

The letters provide information to help people finish the application process. Since the correct versions are only going out now, the people receiving them may have to set up plans that start Feb. 1, rather than on New Year's day. People who enroll after Dec. 23rd, but by Jan. 15th, will have policies that take effect February 1st.

Related Material: FAQ on navigating Covered California

Last Wednesday a Covered California spokesman said the agency was on track to clear the rest of its paper applications backlog - about 11,500 in all - by Monday. But on Saturday Lee said, "we won’t actually process them all by Monday." 

The Covered California chief did not address whether the failure to process a paper application by Monday will push back a policy's start date.

Lee noted that President Obama’s policy shift on cancelled individual plans will apply in California. On Thursday the administration said people whose policies were cancelled for being out of compliance with the Affordable Care Act can apply for a "temporary" hardship exemption that would let them buy cheaper, catastrophic coverage, even though it is not compliant with the ACA. 

Lee also acknowledged that Covered California does not have a reliable way to count how many of those signing up for insurance are uninsured, as opposed to people who are switching policies.

"We don’t have a good picture of that right now," he said. "We ask a number of questions in the enrollment process that get sort of at that question," but "not as well as we’d like. We’re going to do better measurement of that as we go forward."

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