Exchange Outlines New Policy for Consumers Experiencing Technical Issues on Last Day of Open Enrollment
Sacramento, CA (March 31) - Covered California responded to a record-setting number of consumers trying to sign up for health insurance plans by allowing them to work with a certified delegate to finish their application by April 15.
"We have always said that if high website traffic impedes the ability of consumers to apply online for coverage by the deadline, we will help those people cross the finish line," said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. "We were prepared for a last-minute surge of people coming to our website, but sometimes there's only so much you can do operationally. While we had hoped people would start the enrollment process earlier, we can't in good conscience turn people away who simply couldn't get onto the website on the last day."
The exchange saw a dramatic spike in visits to its website beginning today. From midnight to 2:30 p.m. today, there were 324,000 unique visitors on the site, with more than 5.7 million pages viewed. In comparison, consumers on December 23 — the deadline for Jan. 1 health coverage — viewed more than 1.9 million pages. Today's number represents a record for Covered California website visits since the October launch of the new marketplace.
Website traffic caused the enrollment functionality to slow dramatically and to experience unplanned system outages periodically today.
"We have every indication, including our experience with the December deadline, that the strong interest will continue through this evening," Lee said. "We now must give those consumers an opportunity to get insurance."
Because of the staggering demands on its system, Covered California announced the following policy this afternoon:
- Consumers who were unable to create an online account or start their online application because of technical difficulties can contact Covered California Service Center representatives, Covered California Certified Enrollment Counselors, Covered California Certified Insurance Agents, Certified Plan-Based Enrollers and county eligibility workers to explain that they attempted to get through on March 31 and experienced difficulties. Those consumers will have until 11:59 p.m. April 15 to work with the assister to complete their application and choose a plan.
- Consumers who created an online account and completed the first page of the application by 11:59 p.m. March 31, 2014, will be able to complete their application for the open-enrollment period, either by themselves online or with the help of a certified delegate. Consumers must complete the application and select a plan by 11:59 p.m. April 15, 2014. Those enrollees will receive coverage effective May 1.
- Paper applications need to be postmarked by March 31; however, to guarantee application completion and coverage effective May 1, consumers are encouraged to enroll online with the help of a certified delegate.
Covered California is working diligently to resolve technical issues with the website. During slowdowns or system outages, consumers can visit the website to find fact sheets and to use the Shop and Compare Tool to see plan choices and check eligibility for financial assistance and Medi-Cal coverage.
[About Covered California: Covered California is the state's marketplace for the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Covered California, in partnership with the California Department of Health Care Services, was charged with creating a new health insurance marketplace in which individuals and small businesses can get access to affordable health insurance plans. With coverage starting in 2014, Covered California helps individuals determine whether they are eligible for premium assistance that is available on a sliding-scale basis to reduce insurance costs or whether they are eligible for low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal. Consumers can then compare health insurance plans and choose the plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Small businesses can purchase competitively priced health insurance plans and offer their employees the ability to choose from an array of plans and may qualify for federal tax credits.]
[Covered California is an independent part of the state government whose job is to make the new market work for California's consumers. It is overseen by a five-member board appointed by the Governor and the Legislature. For more information on Covered California, please visit www.CoveredCA.com.]