By Chad Terhune
October 3, 2013, 5:43 p.m.

Several days into enrollment, California’s insurance exchange still has no answers for people wanting to know if their doctors are included in health plans being sold on the state-run market.

Covered California, the state’s new insurance marketplace, said Thursday that its online search tool for doctors and hospitals won’t be ready until Monday at the earliest.

The exchange touted the feature when enrollment began Tuesday, but it has run into repeated delays amid other computer problems that have bogged down enrollment.

Many people are worried about holding on to their current physicians with the federal healthcare law creating so much industry upheaval. The California Medical Assn., which represents about 37,000 doctors statewide, has expressed frustration about the delay in disclosing the provider information.

The issue is especially important because many insurers in California have sharply limited their number of doctors and hospitals to help hold down premiums in the exchange. That has fueled concerns that some patients may struggle to get the care they need.

Mark Sande, a 58-year-old actor in Los Angeles, said he and his wife want to know the status of their physicians before picking a new plan in the exchange. They pay about $750 a month for a high-deductible policy now.

“We’ve been going to the same doctors for years and years,” he said. “I would definitely check before I sign up.”

Sande said he hasn’t been able to get that far because of persistent error messages on the state website at www.coveredca.com. He said he successfully created an account Tuesday, the first day of enrollment, but hasn’t been able to log in to go shopping despite a dozen tries in the last three days.

“I understand that rolling out a new and busy site is a glitch-prone process, but it’s been very aggravating,” Sande said.

Covered California officials say some glitches are inevitable in launching such a complex program, and they said Thursday that the website’s performance is improving. The state said the delay in installing the medical provider directory occurred because technical resources were shifted to keeping the website operational during the first few days of heavy traffic.

Exchange officials agree that the provider search tool is of vital concern to many patients and say that’s why it has remained a top priority.

“People care about this and they want to know, ‘Is my doctor in the network?'” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. “We don’t want this to just be about getting insurance. We want people to get the care they need.”

Ted Mazer, an ear, nose and throat surgeon in San Diego, said the state erred in not having information on medical providers available when the exchange opened.

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