A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange on October 1, 2013, in Washington, DC. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)
The ceremonial switch was thrown Tuesday morning around 8 a.m., and Covered California was open for business. By 3 p.m., officials reported the Covered California website had received 5 million hits, averaging 5,000 per minute, and call center wait times were 20-30 minutes. Roughly 17,000 people called in to Covered California service centers by 3 p.m.*
Covered California is the state’s new health insurance marketplace, established as part of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
Call centers in California — and nationwide — have been jammed.
Lines weren’t just long on the phone either. There was a sign-up event at Merritt College in Oakland Tuesday afternoon for community college students. KQED writer Ryder Diaz reported long wait times; students were having to leave and go to class.
While today has been a very busy day, people do still have time to enroll. For insurance that will take effect Jan. 1, Californians need to enroll by Dec. 15.
At a press event Tuesday morning, Covered California executive director Peter Lee struck an almost-euphoric note.
“This is the day where millions of people’s dreams are going to come true,” Lee said. “This is a day when a hundred years of efforts by Republicans going back to Teddy Roosevelt, to Democrats like Teddy Kennedy, have been working to change America to make health care a right, not a privilege.”
Going forward, in California, rates may only be set according to three factors: your age, where you live and number of people in your family. No longer can your health status be taken into account or can you be turned down for health insurance because of a preexisting condition.
KQED’s Mina Kim spoke with Lisa Aliferis about Covered California’s big day.
Not everyone is affected
If you currently have job-based insurance or if you’re on Medicare or Medi-Cal, nothing about your situation is going to change. But if you’re buying your own insurance, Covered California is a new marketplace for you. It’s estimated that half the people in California buying insurance right now will be eligible for subsidies, and many of the uninsured will be eligible for subsidies as well.