Covered California head says agency adjusts to handle enrollment surge

Peter Lee, Executive Director of Covered California.
Peter Lee, Executive Director of Covered California.
Peter Lee

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Covered California, the state-run health insurance marketplace, has made some adjustments in response to a flood of applicants logging onto its website and phoning call centers for help with buying a policy. 

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"Two days ago, we literally had - in one hour - 17,000 people call," says Peter V. Lee, Executive Director of Covered California.  "And this is, in many ways, what you would call an embarrassment of enrollment riches."

Lee says Covered California is adding staff to help answer calls and to process about 25,000 paper applications that have come into the marketplace in recent weeks. 

The marketplace has also redesigned its homepage. It now offers a  button at the top that encourages applicants to seek enrollment assistance from lists of certified enrollment counselors and insurance agents searchable by zip code.

"We think with the licensed agents, certified counselors and a working website, we’re going to get everyone who wants to get coverage effective January one through the doors," says Lee.

"We're going to be open now 24 -7 through the 23rd to make sure people can enroll either online or by phone," he notes, adding that Covered California's call centers will be open both Sunday Dec. 15 and Sunday Dec. 22.

Applications for insurance that starts on January 1, 2014, must be completed by Dec. 23.  That deadline and a promotional push this week on Spanish language TV stations, Lee says,  appeared to have triggered the unprecedented surge of interest.