Problems at Covered California prompt proposed legislative fix

State Senator Norma Torres (D-Pomona).
State Senator Norma Torres (D-Pomona).
Rich Pedroncelli/AP

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Highly-publicized problems with the  state-run health insurance marketplace have prompted a state lawmaker to introduce legislation that would expand the Covered California board and broaden its expertise. 

Covering California series icon 2013

The measure, SB 972, by State Senator Norma Torres (D-Pomona), is a response to what she considers to be Covered California's poor customer service (particularly long wait times for those trying to reach its call centers), glitches on its website - including an indefinitely suspended provider search tool - and the agency's failure to enroll larger numbers of people from key populations, particularly Latinos,  non-English speakers and younger consumers, often referred to as "Young Invincibles." 

The bipartisan-backed bill would expand the Covered California board of directors from five to seven members, with the additional board members to be appointed by the Governor. Currently, the governor appoints two members, the state senate rules committee appoints one, and the Speaker of the state assembly appoints one. The secretary of health and human services or another designee fills the fifth seat. 

Torres' bill would add more areas of expertise that would qualify someone to serve on the board, to include health insurance marketing, information technology, and consumer services.

Torres' office said 53 percent of telephone calls to Covered California are abandoned and less than 1 percent of calls are answered within 30 seconds.  She also cited low enrollment numbers for Latinos and a shortage of certified enrollment counselors as other problems that need fixing. 

"Accountability starts at the top," Torres said in a written statement. "After almost three years on the job, it is indisputable this board of directors needs additional expertise to provide oversight of staff in areas where improvement is needed."

Covered California officials did not respond to requests for comment on Torres' bill.