LA Times: Lack of enrollment workers hampers insurance exchange sign-ups

Delays in training enrollment counselors and insurance agents are damping health policy sales. Covered California says it’s moving swiftly to address shortcomings.

 Helena Ruffin

Helena Ruffin, a health insurance agent in Venice, put Covered California’s logo on her car to promote the exchange. Ruffin said she can’t get her agent log-in to work for the state’s enrollment system. “We can’t enroll anybody, and I have a list of customers who are ready.” (Genaro Molina, Los Angeles Times /October 30, 2013)

By Chad Terhune and Eryn Brown

October 30, 2013, 5:49 p.m. 

A month into enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, hundreds of healthcare workers and insurance agents are still unable to sign up consumers for health coverage through California’s new exchange.

Despite promises of an army of workers blanketing the state to help, many aren’t in place — or they’re hitting one state roadblock or another.

Critics say training sessions started late, background checks have taken too long and some people are suffering computer log-in problems. Backers of the healthcare expansion worry that these ongoing delays will hurt enrollment efforts with just six weeks left for people to get coverage effective Jan. 1.

Covered California, the state insurance exchange, acknowledges that there have been problems. But it says it is moving swiftly to have enough enrollment help by mid-November when sign-ups are expected to accelerate.

But patience seems to be wearing thin, and complaints are growing.

“The process is simply taking too long,” said Carmela Castellano-Garcia, chief executive of the California Primary Care Assn., which represents community health centers with enrollment workers. “Our folks are frustrated with onerous delays at every step. We could be enrolling more people.”

Consumers can get coverage directly by contacting Covered California’s call centers or clicking on the state’s website, which has worked better than the federal government’s error-ridden healthcare.gov site.

But by their own estimates, state officials say about 80% of consumers will want in-person help to sort through their new insurance options under a complex law.

Continue reading here: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-exchange-enrollment-20131031,0,4817606.story#axzz2jIPJFh7Z

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