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Covered California says healthcare-law enrollment on track for Oct. 1

September 09, 2013|By Chad Terhune
  • Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said the state's new healthcare insurance market is set for "all systems go Oct. 1."
Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said the state's… (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los…)

California's new health insurance marketplace says online enrollment should launch Oct. 1, dismissing earlier concerns about a delay.

Covered California, the state agency implementing the federal Affordable Care Act, said recent computer tests indicate that its website will be ready to take online sign-ups on schedule.

Last month, officials warned that the website might not be fully operational at the outset, and that residents may have to enroll by phone or with a representative's help.

"We have gone through the testing, and we are planning for all systems go Oct. 1 with the full range of enrollment options," said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. "We are in very good shape."

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Lee said the state exchange doesn't expect a flood of enrollment early next month, partly because the coverage doesn't take effect until Jan. 1 at the earliest and open enrollment lasts until the end of March.

Rather, he said he expects enrollment to accelerate during November.

Another technology issue, however, is the readiness of the federal government's data hub. California and other states running their own exchanges must verify certain enrollee information, such as Social Security numbers, with the federal system.

If the federal data hub isn't ready initially, Lee said, Covered California can still enroll residents and then will follow up with federal verification later.

The state is also rushing to train about 20,000 enrollment counselors and to certify about 12,000 insurance agents for selling the new health plans in the state-run market.

"It will be a crunch the next six weeks," Lee said. "We won't have everyone I would like to have trained as of Oct. 1. Will there be enough? I think so."

California last week began airing its first TV ads for the program in the test markets of San Diego, Sacramento and Chico. The ad campaign is to go statewide next month.

The state is trying to reach about 5.3 million Californians who are uninsured or don't receive health insurance at work.

For 2014, the state's goal for exchange enrollment is 1.4 million. Another 1.4 million Californians may be eligible for an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program for the poor.

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