Covered California

By Tracy Seipel – tseipel@mercurynews.com
Posted: 12/09/2013 12:51:51 PM PST
Updated: 12/09/2013 07:06:36 PM PST

Already scrambling to meet a Dec. 23 deadline to sign up as many Californians as possible with insurance plans under the new federal healthcare law, the state’s online exchange is confronting a potential delay over a backlog of 25,000 paper applications that must be re-submitted online.

Covered California officials said the problem should be resolved by the end of the week. But critics are worried that those who either filled out the paperwork for an insurance policy on their own, through a certified insurance agent or certified enrollment counselor since the exchange opened Oct. 1, might miss the deadline.

So is Covered California ready for the onslaught of last-minute applicants? There’s less than two weeks to go before applicants must finalize their new insurance policies for coverage to start Jan. 1.

“They’re not prepared,” said Oly Storz, owner of Storz Insurance Services in Los Gatos. “People have been given false expectations.”

The veteran insurance company owner has watched his own brokers wait three months to be certified to sell plans on the exchange. They’ve been put on hold for hours on the exchange’s “broker hotline,” then find they’re unable to enter their name on the insurance application — the only way the agents can make commission, he said.

“It’s an avalanche now,” said Storz of Covered California. “They say they’re adding resources but they can’t just hire new people who don’t know what they’re doing. It’s just mind-boggling.”

Larry Hicks, a spokesman for Covered California, said the exchange has “adequate personnel and adequate computer capacity to handle the workload that is to come.”

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