More than 28,000 Californians were signed up for health insurance in the first week of Affordable Care Act enrollment, which was more than expected, the state health exchange said.
Officials said the Covered California exchange increased thebandwidthforthe www.coveredca.com website, meaning it should be easier for local residents to enroll online.
After an Oct. 1 launch that was fraught with computer-system failures, the state health exchange was running more smoothly this week. The average wait time for consumers seeking assistance from the health exchange call centers was about four minutes, said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California.
“Has it been perfect? Absolutely not,” Lee said during a press conference. Despite negative press, he characterized the first week of the historic enrollment opportunity as “pretty darn good.”
According to the exchange, applicants representing 16,311 households signed up for health plans offered through the government-run exchange and 27,305 had begun the application process.
In addition, 430 small businesses signed up for coverage for employees.
Lee estimated that 500,000 to 700,000 residents will enroll in coverage in the next six months. Residents need to enroll by Dec. 15 for coverage to begin Jan. 1. The signup period runs until March 31.
Covered California also loaded provider directories onto its Internet site, allowing consumers to see whether the doctors and hospitals they use accept the coverage.
In Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties, the health plans are offered by Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente, Blue Shield and Health Net at four different coverage levels. The plans cover from 60 to 90 percent of medical costs.
Plans with higher monthly premiums have lower out-of-pocket expenses; those with the lowest premiums have maximum out-of-pocket expenses of $6,350 per person or $12,700 per family.
Covered California officials said some uninsured people were eligible for subsidies that will lower their monthly premiums to $10 or less. For example, Paul Torrigino, a 57-year-old pensioner from Sacramento, told reporters he qualified for tax credits that will reduce his premium to $1a month.
Stories about people getting virtually free insurance through the exchange caused local conservatives to bristle.
“The people who work are going to be subsidizing the ones who don’t work,” said county Supervisor Jim DeMartini, chairman of the Republican Central Committee of Stanislaus County. “It’s a bad system for America. The federal government has no business being in the insurance business.”
Single adults earning between $15,860 and $45,960 are eligible for tax credits to lower premiums, and subsidies are available for four-member families with income between $32,500 and $94,200 a year. For example, a 40-year-old man in Stanislaus County earning $17,000 ayear can purchase a plan covering 70 percent of bills for $31 a month. Monthly costs for the same plan are $94 for a 40-year-old making $22,000 a year and $166 for a person earning $28,000.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.