California is currently buried under more than 20,000 incomplete paper applications for health insurance through the Golden State’s online marketplace, Covered California. Thanks to initial website glitches when the exchange opened Oct. 1, government officials directed certified producers to submit 32-page paper forms for clients.
Now, however, the Dec. 23 deadline is just around the corner and tens of thousands of the applications still need to be entered into the online system. The solution? Covered California believes it is asking the California Association of Health Underwriters for help inputting the information into computers.
While Sam Smith, president of CAHU, said its certified agents were “fully committed to work with Covered California to resolve this crisis,” other producers feel daunted by the last-minute scramble.
“It currently takes over 90 minutes to enter the information from the application due to the slow exchange system,” said Bruce Benton of Genesis Financial & Insurance Services in Sherman Oaks, Calif. “To have to go back at this late date and key in the data from paper applications I have already submitted to Covered California is extremely challenging and will take several days to process.”
Benton said he is already working until midnight most nights just to keep up with the demand.
Elsewhere in the country, producers are equally committed to getting their clients enrolled in healthcare plans, though they’re starting to feel the strain.
In Anchorage, Alaska, producers with Northrim Benefits Group are working “seven days a week, around the clock to get everyone enrolled,” said Tyann Boling, COO of Northrim’s Enroll Alaska program.
Boling said the process has been difficult thanks to website glitches with HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange site. At the end of October, Enroll Alaska temporarily suspended its enrollment process until it could be sure the site was fully functional.
Now, Boling said HealthCare.gov has significantly improved, though “it’s definitely not functioning 100%.”
Continued issues with exchange sites have also affected Kelly Fristoe, a Texas-based producer who fears HealthCare.gov still won’t be able to facilitate all of his clients by the looming deadline.
“Am I seeing some successes? Yes, but they are far and few between,” Fristoe said. “They’re not what they need to be with Dec. 23 right around the corner.”
In order to ensure clients are fully covered by the Jan. 1 start date, producers need to enroll clients by Dec. 23 and submit premium payments by Dec. 31. It’s a daunting task, but producers say they are committed to their clients and willing to put in the extra work.
“This is going to push agents to the wall, but we are all in this together and we want to find the best possible solutions to work it through to best serve our clients,” said Patrick Burns, an Oakland-based producer. “Our business and that of all other agents…helps individual healthcare consumers, their families and businesses seeking coverage for their workers.”