'Covered California' launch plagued by complaints

October 1, 2013 5:07:56 PM PDT
A projected half-million or more Californians are expected to sign up for the coverage under Covered California. On Tuesday, many jumped at the chance and complaints quickly surfaced, with some people just giving up.

Complaints of slow-loading pages and long waits during customer service calls marred the launch. Complaints mounted on Twitter. One freelance artist told ABC7 News that he gave up waiting to talk to someone at one of the Covered California call centers. "I hit the almost hour and a half mark, and I just sort of gave up at that point," applicant Michael Hsiung said.

Geraldine Punzalan doesn't have insurance, so she needs to go to the website and she has a big concern. "It's hard because you also need to think about your income and what if you can't afford to have it, and your income just isn't just based on that. As students, a lot of us are not even working right now," graduate student Geraldine Punzalan said.

Experts say the health care plan will need high enrollment to succeed, especially among young people who may think they won't get sick. "I'm not that young, but I'm relatively young. So I feel like I'm going to be OK, and stuff like that, but unforeseen things happen all the time," said SJSU student Victor Lecha.

The glitches may be tied to high demand on the first day. Ironing out those kinks will be important to consumers used to fast, reliable online service.

Gary Lauer is chairman and CEO of eHealth, based in Mountain View. "The reason that companies like amazon.com, eBay, that they're successful, is that they've figured out how to make what they market and sell work for consumers. I like to think that we've done a similar thing in the health insurance world. That's the challenge the government exchanges are going to have and I hope that they're able to figure that out."

Once consumers get through, useful tools are there to help them determine if they qualify for a subsidy and to answer a wide range of questions. "It's pretty good. It's not hard to find things. The questions/answers are very good. You walk through the questions/answers, and you get a tutorial pretty quick," said Healthier Kids Foundation CEO Kathleen King.


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