Covered California doctor search tool limps back online


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The on-again-off-again doctor search feature on the state-run health insurance website is on again. But despite a nearly two-week hiatus, the feature is still in need of numerous fixes. 

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"This is only meant as a guide at this point, we wanted to get a tool up for people to check for their doctor and clinician," says Anne Gonzales, a spokeswoman for Covered California.

But don't expect the tool to be working perfectly, and don't expect to find it easily. It's not on the home page or any place else that’s easy to find.  Instead, you'll need to click through a half dozen pages and answer a few basic questions about your income, zip code and family size before an icon for the search feature will  appear on your screen.

Then, once you plug in your doctor’s name and city, you may find yourself sifting through a long list of doctors with similar first names until you get to the doctor you’re seeking.

The  idea behind the search function, unique to the newly-opened insurance marketplaces nationwide, is  to help California shoppers find out if their doctor and/or provider facility is on any heath insurance plan they may buy on the state-run marketplace. 

But so far, the road has been nothing but bumpy for consumers interested in using it. 

For the first week of open enrollment, which began Oct. 1,  the feature didn't work at all. A week later, Covered California officials announced it was up and running. Then, two days later,  more problems prompted officials to shut it down for two weeks.

Gonzales says during that period, technicians improved page loading speeds and navigation paths. But don’t pay attention to what it says about the languages a doctor speaks. That information is still often wrong. And you won’t find doctor specialties listed, either.  Those were removed after numerous errors were discovered. 

 Gonzales says those fixes, and many others – including a search function for hospitals, urgent care centers and other facilities, are slated for the coming weeks

"Uploading this directory has been very complex," Gonzales says," but we believe it’s going to be a powerful tool once it’s fully-functional."

Until that happens, Covered California officials advise consumers who use the website’s search tool to confirm any information they find with the individual doctor.