Half of California Callers Give Up on Obamacare

Image: Half of California Callers Give Up on Obamacare Operators at the Covered California call center in Rancho Cordova.

Friday, 21 Mar 2014 11:19 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Almost half of people who called California's Obamacare exchange in February and March couldn't get through and ended their calls, which could undermine the Obama administration's final push to get people to enroll by the March 31 deadline.

Covered California, which released the figures Thursday, also said that average telephone wait times are 30 minutes, and 40 percent of the customers questioned in a survey said they found the enrollment process difficult, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Less than 5 percent of calls are answered within 30 seconds and about one-third of callers get a busy signal, according to the data.

Nevertheless, the average wait time is an improvement from December, when customers were on hold for an average of 50 minutes, according to the Times.

The health exchange also reported progress in signing up Hispanics, improving their enrollment from 18 percent at the end of December to 32 percent in the first two weeks of March.

"That is a very substantial increase," said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, according to the Times.

By one estimate, eight out of 10 Hispanics in the country qualify for government-funded health insurance or financial assistance to pay for private plans under the new healthcare law.

Relative to other states, California has had success in getting people enrolled in Obamacare. More than 1 million Californians enrolled through March 17, and an additional 1.5 million people have enrolled or been approved for eligibility for Medi-Cal, the state's expanded Medicaid program.

Meanwhile, Covered California is the subject of a lawsuit by a state senator who says the exchange has caused the cancellation of 1 million policies because it rejected the Obama administration's "fix."

The lawsuit also says the exchange has spent tax dollars in an "irrational, unreasonable, and abusive" way, including its expenditure of $1.37 million on an ad campaign featuring a video with Richard Simmons promoting the new healthcare exchange.

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