Covered California, the state’s new insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, fielded 43,616 applications in its first week, with 28,699 people determined eligible for insurance, according to numbers the agency announced Tuesday.
The website, which has had some struggles with long wait times and glitches but has undergone periods of maintenance that allowed it to run smoother, received 987,440 unique visits, and the agency also had 59,003 calls. Customer service operators were flooded with calls within the first few days, with wait times exceeding 30 minutes.The average wait time for the first week was 15 minutes.
“We’ve started strong,” Executive Director Peter Lee said in a statement. “The amount of interest and number of applications we’ve received in the first week underscores the demand among Californians for quality, affordable health care.”
The open enrollment period for 2014 Covered California insurance kicked off Oct. 1 and will end March 31.
In Riverside County the agency is offering plans through Anthem, Blue Shield, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente and Molina Healthcare. They will all include core ACA-mandated benefits that had previously been ignored in many plans such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs and maternity care, as well as offering coverage regardless of preexisting conditions. Presented in tiers ranging from platinum to bronze, the coverage will use a standardized-benefits system that will set out-of-pocket costs.
Covered California is also offering subsidies for the plans through federal funding for those living between 138 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, $11,490 for an individual. About 2.6 million Californians are eligible for subsidies, including 341,000 in Riverside-San Bernardino county region.
The agency hopes to bring in some of the estimated 5.3 million uninsured Californians through the changes. Prior to the exchange’s open, it had announced that it hoped to enroll between 487,000 and 696,000 subsidy-eligible people by the end of the first enrollment period.
“It’s just the beginning, but these numbers are truly exciting and encouraging,” Lee added.
In the Coachella Valley Desert Healthcare District and the California Endowment have formed a partnership and committed $500,000 and up to $650,000 on ACA insurance education and enrollment, in conjunction with the efforts of local organizations and federally qualified health centers.
People can apply for the insurance plans at apply.coveredca.com, which includes a built-in application for the ACA expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s welfare program for the low-income, for those living under 138 percent of the federal poverty level.