Obamacare Chaos in California
The California Obamacare exchange, Covered California, has enrollment snags preventing thousands of customers from obtaining insurance. Many who selected a plan as early as October are now being told by insurance companies that they have no record of their enrollment. Consumers are enduring long waiting periods on the phone, computer errors, and conflicting information from California navigators and insurers.
Meanwhile, the state is still trying to clear a log jam of October and November paper applications that they received by mail.
"The back end is so backed up, and no one can give me an answer," said Thomas Gallo, who was a strong supporter of Obamacare. Gallo signed up for healthcare for his family on October 2 but did not hear back for weeks. When he followed up on his application, he was told at the end of November that it was lost. "What happens if we don't get coverage by Jan. 1? There are real problems here," Gallo said.
Blue Shield of California Chief Executive Paul Markovich admitted, "There are certainly some people who have enrolled or think they have enrolled and haven't received confirmation. It's our version of Black Friday right now and that is what we are coping with."
The target date of January 1 is extremely important for Bret Winton and his wife because they are expecting their first child in early January. Winton is a self-employed consultant living in the Venice, CA. His insurance is being cancelled as a result of Obamacare, along with one million other Californians, because his family plan does not meet the requirements set out by the Affordable Care Act. Winton endured repeated glitches and delays as he struggled with the online exchange. He ultimately selected an Anthem Blue Cross policy, which would provide access to his wife's doctor and hospital.
Winton called the Covered California exchange and a recording said he would be called back in four hours. He never got the call back. He resorted to a sanctioned chat line that told him he would need to wait 14 days and then he could reapply.
California resident Jim Arenson, a self-employed engineer, also had difficulty with the online exchange. He complained it took him two months to finally receive notice confirming he was covered through Blue Shield. “I was very scared I wouldn't have health insurance," said Arenson, who needs additional care after cancer surgery this year. "The exchange and the insurance company were pointing fingers at each other. There could be a lot of people falling through the cracks."
State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), chairman of the Senate health committee, is deeply concerned that time is running out to fix some of these enrollment problems. Now that Obamacare is the law of the land, "The question now is whether we can meet that demand. Everything seems to be bottlenecked until we open more lanes," Hernandez said.