Covered California Disables Part of Site to Handle Traffic

Covered California executive director Peter Lee speaking to advocates and reporters in San Francisco on Oct. 1, 2013. (Angela Hart/KQED)

Covered California executive director Peter Lee speaking to advocates and reporters in San Francisco on Oct. 1, 2013. (Angela Hart/KQED)

Update 7pm: Covered California extended the deadline to sign up for a health insurance plan — with some caveats.

Original Post:

Covered California is seeing “truly unprecedented enrollment,” says executive director Peter Lee. Sunday was the busiest day ever — that includes the days before the last big deadline in December. Just over 500,000 people enrolled in a Covered California plan by Dec 31, 2013. Covered California had reached the 1 million mark earlier in March. More than 1.2 million people had signed up for a plan as of 2am Monday morning. Nearly 400,000 people started applications in the last week.

To help keep the website running in the face of the surging traffic, Covered California is taking parts of it that don’t have to do specifically with enrollment offline. The “preview plans” function is being disabled, although people can still use “shop and compare.”

If traffic gets very high, individuals might find themselves logged out once they have started their application — but before they have picked a health insurance plan. “We know that’s not ideal, but we want to make sure the people that want to enroll can get in the system,” Lee says.

Lee says an onscreen message will state that the customer still needs to pick a plan, but has two weeks to do so. “We say very clearly that given the high demand, we cannot help you complete the application right now.”

In addition to enrolling online, people can also sign up at an enrollment event — a handful of counties have them in the afternoon and evening on Monday. (Note that depending on your browser, you might need to scroll down to find your county when you check this site.)

People can also sign up with a certified insurance agent — a licensed insurance broker. This is at no cost to consumers; health insurance plan’s pay brokers’ premiums.

Here’s a quick rundown of numbers as of Monday, 2AM:

  • 1.2 million enrolled on Covered California
  • 1.5 million newly-enrolled in Medi-Cal
  • 1.1 million signed up through the Covered California website “determined likely eligible” for Medi-Cal

Lee said Covered California cannot say definitively how many of these nearly 4 million people were previously uninsured. “It’s something we should look at during a statewide survey so we can get a very clear picture,” he said.

He said that 87 percent of people enrolled on Covered California qualify for a subsidy and it’s likely many of them were previously uninsured. “Of the many people who signed up with Medi-Cal, the expectation is the vast majority were previously uninsured,” Lee said.

Related