Covered California: More than 28K already found eligible for health insurance

Booklets outlining health insurance options at a September resource fair in South Gate.
Booklets outlining health insurance options at a September resource fair in South Gate.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

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Covering California series icon 2013Despite a launch that was "kinda slow, kinda clunky," California's  online health insurance marketplace has processed  16,311 applications that represent more than 28,699 Californians seeking coverage, says Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California. 
"Looking back at this one week, the response has been nothing short of phenomenal," Lee said Tuesday. 
By last Saturday, "more than 987,000 individual visitors"  logged into the Covered California website, and "more than 59,000 calls" rang into the agency's service centers, said Lee.  
Day one wait times of up to 40 minutes per call dropped to about four minutes by last Friday, he said, with customers spending an average of 16 minutes on the phone with operators.
In addition to those seeking health insurance on the new individual marketplace, 430 small businesses also signed up to participate in the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) marketplace, Lee said.
The Affordable Care Act does not require that businesses with 50 or fewer full time employees provide coverage for their workers; only larger businesses must do so.  But, should smaller companies wish to offer coverage, the SHOP exchange is designed to provide them with competitively-priced health plans that until now have typically been available only to larger firms.
Lee took issue with those who criticized computer glitches, slow wait times and other problems experienced by consumers trying to access the online marketplace in its opening days. Among the reported problems was an inoperable doctor search tool that finally came on line Monday afternoon. 
"The pundits tried to derail  something," he said, "Well,  I want to say you can’t derail something when the train has left the station. And Covered California has left the station and is going very strong."

The Affordable Care Act requires nearly every American to have health insurance by Jan. 1, 2014, or to pay a fine that starts out relatively small and then grows over time. 

The Covered California policies now for sale by 12 private insurance companies don't take effect until Jan. 1. 


Website and Call Center Weekly Report: Oct. 1-5

Service volumes  
Unique visits to 987,440
Call volume 59,003
Average wait time 15:08*
Average handling time 16:48
Applications 43,616
Partially completed 27,305
Applications completed with household eligibility determined 16,311
Number of Californians determined eligible for coverage 28,699
SHOP businesses registered as of Oct. 8 430

*Average wait time was reduced to less than four minutes by Friday, Oct. 4.

Source: Covered California