Obamacare Vs. Royal Baby; Obamacare Wins!

You're cute Prince George, but not cute enough to beat out Obamacare. (John Stillwell/AFP/Getty Images)

You’re cute Prince George, but not cute enough to beat out Obamacare. (John Stillwell/AFP/Getty Images)

Yahoo ranks all manner of searches in its annual Year in Review: Top Searched Handbags; Top Searched Celebrity Pregnancies.

But here at State of Health, we were much more interested in Yahoo’s Most Searched News Stories — and were thrilled to see that “obamacare (affordable care act)” came in second. That in and of itself wasn’t a huge surprise, because we know Obamacare is a big news story. But it’s who Obamacare beat that was startling: the Royal Baby.

That’s right. People searched more for the Affordable Care Act than they did the birth of Prince George. The ranking went as follows (lower case is search-style):

  • jody arias trial
  • obamacare (affordable care act)
  • boston marathon bombing
  • royal baby birth
  • george zimmerman trial

Obamacare also came in second in Yahoo’s most searched “what” questions. But here Obamacare lost out to popular culture — big time. “What is Obamacare” came in second to “What is Twerking.”

Geez.

Yahoo released its rankings earlier this week, which means it’s not capturing the surging drive of traffic that is expected over the next two weeks as the Monday Dec. 23 deadline approaches to sign up for insurance that will begin Jan. 1.

And that’s too bad, because we think if Yahoo would count December in its rankings, Obamacare would be the clear first-place winner.

Can Covered California Keep Up With Traffic as Deadline Nears?

On Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Covered California marketplace is being swamped with applications. From the LA Times:

In response to higher-than-expected demand, the Covered California exchange said it is adding staff and expanding its capacity to answer consumer calls. It received 17,000 calls in less than an hour Wednesday, more than it received in an entire day in recent weeks. The exchange is also trying to dig through a backlog of 25,000 paper applications filed in October and November. …

“We have been running strong all week, and at times we have exceeded the capacity of our phone lines,” said exchange spokesman Dana Howard. “The demand is more than we projected. But the bottom line is folks will be able to get themselves enrolled for Jan. 1.”

Covered California has been outperforming Healthcare.gov, the marketplace for 36 other states. As of mid-November nearly 80,000 people had enrolled in private health plans. Another 140,000 people appear to be eligible for Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

But the Times reports that with the spike in traffic, average call center wait times have also spiked — to 25 minutes up from 18 minutes the week before. Even those who filed applications weeks ago may face issues. Again, from the Times:

Health insurance agents, key allies of Covered California so far, are also voicing frustration. The California Assn. of Health Underwriters expressed concern Thursday about the exchange failing to process about 25,000 paper applications that agents had submitted weeks ago.

The exchange said those paper applications were filled out in October and November when many agents were unable to access the state’s online enrollment system. Howard, the exchange spokesman, said the exchange will be working with agents to manually enter that paperwork into the state’s computer system and fill in additional information needed to complete the enrollment.

“We have to make a stronger effort to get those applications done with the deadline approaching,” he said.

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