Covered California enrollees a mix of young, old, executive director says

The Fresno BeeNovember 20, 2013 

A mix of older Californians and young adults are enrolling in health plans through Covered California, the state's insurance marketplace for the Affordable Care Act, an official said Wednesday in Fresno.

Demographic information about enrollees will be released Thursday by Covered California at a board meeting in Sacramento, Executive Director Peter V. Lee said.

Details about enrollees by region and by health plans chosen also will be released, Lee said. He was in Fresno on Wednesday for the grand opening of Covered California's call center here.

In addition, Covered California's board of directors will discuss a policy announced by President Barack Obama that would allow insurers to offer customers the option to renew their 2013 health plans in 2014, without change.

The Fresno call center began answering telephone calls Monday. Covered California previously opened call centers in Rancho Cordova and in Contra Costa County. By Dec. 1, the state health benefit exchange expects to have more than 500 employees at the three sites, including Fresno.

Fresno's call center had about 60 employees answering telephones Wednesday, but will have 280 by the end of the year to assist callers through the enrollment process and answer questions about health plans, Lee said.

Call center employees receive about five weeks of training to answer consumer inquiries about eligibility for Medi-Cal or for premium assistance and enrollment in individual health plans.

Fresno was chosen as a call-center site for its diversity, Lee said. Center representatives handle calls statewide in 13 languages.

The Fresno Center is accepting applications for program technicians through www.jobs.ca.gov; applicants must pass a test.

About 400,000 calls have been made to (800) 300-1506 by consumers since Oct. 1, Lee said. Last week, call center employees answered more than 70,000 calls -- the highest number so far, he said.

California has 10% of the nation's population and 30% of the insurance enrollment, Lee said. Covered California is a "well-functioning" website, he said, but he acknowledged that negative news about the federal government's Healthcare.gov site has had some effect on the state. "We need to blow through some of this distraction," he said.

Lee said he expects enrollment through Covered California to peak in early December. People must enroll in plans by Dec. 15 to have coverage begin on Jan. 1. Enrollment for 2014 will be open through March 31.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6310, banderson@fresnobee.com or @beehealthwriter on Twitter.

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