Many who enrolled in health plans still await confirmation

Anxiety grows as health plan delays could leave some customers without a policy by January 1st.

Some people who picked a health plan as far back as October through the Covered California exchange say insurers are telling them they still have no record of their enrollment. As a result, bills haven’t gone out and consumers can’t pay their initial premium to ensure coverage takes effect in less than three weeks.

“There are certainly some people who have enrolled or think they have enrolled and haven’t received confirmation,” said Paul Markovich, chief executive of Blue Shield of California. “It’s our version of Black Friday right now and that is what we are coping with.”

In California, insurers are working with the state exchange on how to address the potentially thorny problem of patients who applied in time but don’t have proof of insurance when they need to visit the emergency room or get a prescription filled in early January.

Insurance companies typically won’t cover any medical bills until a customer pays the premium. The deadline for payment was recently extended to January 6th.

Thousands of Californians have overcome long waits and website glitches to sign up for Obamacare insurance, but now enrollment snags may prevent some of them from actually having coverage starting January 1st.

Consumers’ anxiety has grown as they endure long waits on the phone, computer errors and conflicting answers from the state and insurers about their coverage.

The average wait time at the state’s call centers climbed to 36 minutes last week, and California is still trying to clear a backlog of paper applications filed in October and November.

State officials acknowledge there have been delays, but they say the vast majority of people are enrolling smoothly and getting their first insurance bills. The state said it didn’t have exact figures on how many customers are still waiting for proof of insurance.

Thursday, Covered California said more than 156,000 people had enrolled in private health plans through December 7th. An additional 179,000 Californians have qualified for an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program for the poor.

The stakes are big for people with chronic health conditions and serious medical issues. The loss of coverage could pose significant problems for them financially and for their health.

Lee, head of Covered California, said exchange employees are working overtime to process applications, and the state’s call centers will be open the next two Sundays to help meet increased demand. He said the exchange is sending customer files daily to the 11 insurers participating in the state marketplace.

The separate federal exchange for 36 other states has been trying to fix errors in the customer files it has sent to insurance companies. In contrast, the California Assn. of Health Plans, an industry group, says the information from Covered California has had a “high rate of accuracy.”

*Modified from a LATimes.com article

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