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North Bay Business Journal

Tuesday, October 8, 2013, 5:48 pm

Health insurance exchange gets 46,000 applications in first week

430 businesses open SHOP accounts

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    SACRAMENTO — Covered California, the state’s online health exchange established under the federal Affordable Care Act, on Tuesday released details of its first full week, revealing a high level of web traffic while working out several glitches that beset health exchanges across the country.

    Covered CaliforniaCovered California, along with the federal and other states’ exchanges, went live Oct. 1 to kick off enrollment season for health plans that take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

    From Oct. 1–5, Covered California logged 987,440 unique visits to its website, www.coveredca.com, although some of them were likely repeat visitors who ran into glitches and long waits during the first few days, according to the exchange. It has also had 46,616 applications for health insurance completed, while another 27,305 were partially completed.

    And 430 businesses have registered for the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, as of Oct. 8. Full rates have yet to be released on those health plans.

    “We’ve started strong,” Peter Lee, the exchange’s executive director, said in a statement. “The amount of interest and number of applications we’ve received in the first week underscores the demand among Californians for quality, affordable health care.”

    The exchange was not without issues, though, with an internal communications error last week leading to confusion over just how many web hits the site had received. Speaking with reporters, Mr. Lee stressed that the exchange is early in its inception, and that the early glitches have been and would be dealt with swiftly.

    “It’s really important to note what a learning and growing process this is,” he said.

    Mr. Lee said Covered California won’t yet be releasing figures on how many individuals have enrolled because it’s so early on in the process. However, total enrollment for October will be released in November.

    The exchange said it has determined that 28,699 residents, so far, are eligible for tax subsidies that will lower their monthly premiums.

    Covered California also experienced heavy call volume in the first five days, with 59,003 calls. Average wait time for those calls was just over 15 minutes, although the exchange said that was reduced to less than four minutes by Friday, Oct. 4.  Mr. Lee said the eventual goal is to lower the average wait time significantly, to ideally around 30 seconds.

    For individuals, open enrollment lasts through March 31, 2014. To have health plans take effect Jan. 1, 2014, enrollees must sign up by Dec. 15 of this year. Thereafter, coverage begins the first day of the next month.

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