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Covered California Call Center Helps Thousands

People are shopping for and enrolling in health insurance.

Covered California, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, rolled out Oct. 1, 2013. Courtesy Covered California
Covered California, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, rolled out Oct. 1, 2013. Courtesy Covered California
—By Bay City News Service
 
Over the past week, workers at a state healthcare exchange call center in Concord have fielded an influx of calls from thousands of Californians looking to enroll in health care under the Affordable Care Act.
 
The county-run call center had, as of Oct. 8, helped handle questions from more than 59,000 callers whose were routed either to the Concord facility or to the call center located in Rancho Cordova, according to Peter Lee, Executive Director of Covered California, the state's new healthcare exchange.
 
"We started strong in our first week," he said. "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 calls came addition to the 987,000 individuals who visited the Covered California website to learn more about health insurance options offered through the state's online exchange, Lee said.
 
Since Oct. 1, when the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was rolled out, more than 16,300 California households have applied and been deemed eligible for insurance under Covered California, and more than 27,300 have partially completed their applications, he said.
 
Average weekday call wait times dropped from around 15 minutes on Tuesday to less than four minutes on Friday, according to Lee. He said both call centers hope to get wait times down to 30 seconds or less.
 
At the Concord call center, located in a 37,000-square-foot warehouse located at 2500 Bates Ave., representatives continue to handle a steady stream of calls, said Antonio Vasquez, a customer service supervisor at the center.

The more than 160 customer service representatives at the new center spend most of their time educating callers about the Affordable Care Act and helping them determine if their income levels and other factors make them eligible either for federal subsidies to help cover health care premiums or for low-cost or free Medi-Cal.
 
In many cases, callers with preexisting conditions are relieved that they're eligible for any coverage and are often surprised they won't be required to pay more for a health care plan, said Lisa Jones, a customer service agent at the center.
 
"A lot of people still believe they will be denied for preexisting conditions so they are overjoyed when they learn they can't be rejected," she said.
 
Jones said that as more people learn about their options under the Affordable Care Act, "people are more educated and ready to enroll now."

In addition to individuals and families, some 430 small businesses statewide have registered so far to apply for health coverage for their workers through the exchange, according to Lee.
 
One of those businesses is Dr. Travis Sanchez' chiropractic clinic in Salinas. Under the Affordable Care Act, Sanchez plans to offer his five full-time employees health care coverage, which they currently lack, Lee said.
 
In addition to being able to give his employees coverage, Lee said, Sanchez "knows the Affordable Care Act is going to be life-changing for many of the people he sees as a clinician every day," who are low-income workers.

Enrollees through Covered California will receive health care coverage starting Jan. 1, and open enrollment will continue through March 31. Both individuals and business owners may learn about health care plan options or enroll in Covered California by visiting www.coveredca.com or by speaking to a customer service agent at 888-975-1142.
 
The Concord call center is open 72 hours per week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Copyright © 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. – Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

Rachel Stern October 13, 2013 at 11:31 AM
Glad that the Concord Center is making it so easy for people to enroll. Hopefully it sets a model for other cities in California.
Marilyn Leonard October 13, 2013 at 12:31 PM
People also need to know that unless they are applying for a premium subsidy (under 400% of the Federal Poverty Level), they don't need to go through CoveredCA, the exchange. There are lots of ACA compliant plans offered outside the exchange - same plans and prices as in the exchange, plus a lot of others that are not in the exchange. Contact a Certified Licensed Agent (at no additional cost to you) and get ALL the info. Covered California is NOT the only place to go.
Tripp Sherrod October 14, 2013 at 03:24 PM
It is in your absolute best interest to seek a Certified Covered California Agent to help you step by step through your application. There is a reason commissions are built into the premiums even if you do not speak with a Certified Covered California Agent, and that is because Covered California and Insurance Companies know the importance of having an expert make sure everything is done correctly. Know that there is a BIG difference between newly hired state "assistors and navigators" and a "Certified Covered California Agent". CCCA's do not work in state call centers and we are required to pass back ground checks and rigorous health insurance testing before becoming licensed agents. Take advantage of something you are already paying for if you are purchasing a health insurance plan through Covered California. Call or email me today. Jesse R. Sherrod III (Tripp) Certified Covered California Agent License #0I15060 818-426-3714 trippsherrod@gmail.com Look me up! Service.Cahba.Com/FindAPro

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