California extended the enrollment deadline for the state healthcare exchange, Covered California, until April 15. The website went down periodically on Monday according to the Los Angeles Times, creating havoc for those who were scurrying to meet the original March 31 deadline.
“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,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. “We can’t in good conscience turn people away who simply couldn’t get onto the website on the last day. We weren’t able to build the pipe big enough.”
Some officials are saying that Obamacare sign-ups are approaching the administration’s goal of seven million people nationwide, while others are highly skeptical given that the administration does not know how many have actually paid for insurance. Sen. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) of Wyoming said over the weekend that the administration was “cooking the books” on enrollment figures in response to Maine Sen. Angus King (I-ME)’s assertion that the enrollment number is now at 6.5 million and that “signups are getting younger every day.”
Obamacare advocates are happy for the extension, given the myriad of last-minute problems. “No Californian who tried to enroll should be frozen out of coverage, so this additional consideration is appreciated and necessary,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a consumer advocacy group. “It is both heartwarming to see the lines around the block and troubling because those lines and website glitches may discourage people from even trying.”
John Anthony Costa, a state-certified insurance agent in Long Beach CA, needed to enter 25 insurance applications for his clients on Monday. Unfortunately, he was able to enroll only four of them into the online system by late Monday afternoon. “Every time I try to input the bare minimum, it keeps kicking me off the state website over and over,” Costa exclaimed. “This is insane.”
Meanwhile, frustration continues for those who are trying to reach the Covered California call centers. Wait times have been exceeding 70 minutes in recent days.