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L.A. Now Live: Discuss Tuesday's Obamacare rollout in California

October 02, 2013

Discuss California’s rollout of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act at 9 a.m. with Times reporters Chad Terhune and Eryn Brown.

Kicking off a historic healthcare expansion Tuesday, California's new insurance market stumbled out of the gate with computer glitches, long hold times and an online enrollment delay for small businesses.

Still, many consumers rushed to get coverage when enrollment opened nationwide as part the healthcare law. It was a rocky start for many government-run insurance exchanges across the country as computers froze and online enrollment was postponed for several hours.

In California, officials nonetheless took heart at the stronger-than-expected response: about 5 million online hits and more than 17,000 calls.

The federal law marks the biggest healthcare overhaul since the launch of Medicare half a century ago. Its fate depends a great deal on how well California handles the expansion, given the state's size and strong backing.

The flood of first-day inquiries quickly overwhelmed the state's $313-million enrollment system and its call centers, making it difficult for many to complete applications.

It was quiet at L.A. County-USC Medical Center on Tuesday, where signups under the new healthcare law – known as Obamacare – were underway.

Whether uninsured patients of the county's largest public hospital sign up for coverage under the provisions of the healthcare law -- or not -- could have a major impact on L.A. County's health services system, which currently pays for medical care for uninsured patients who cycle through its three public hospitals and network of public clinics.

If people without coverage, who make up 70% of the hospital's patients, purchase newly affordable insurance or qualify for expanded Medi-Cal benefits, the county expects to spend less on their care.

Proponents of the law are counting on the long enrollment period, which will last six months, even though coverage is due to begin Jan. 1. That means consumers have until March 31 to select a health plan. 

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