In response to blistering criticism from a consumer group, California’s Obamacare exchange vowed to fix longstanding enrollment and tax-related errors that have blocked consumers from getting coverage for months and left some with unforeseen bills.
Peter Lee, executive director of the Covered California exchange, addressed the complaints at a Thursday board meeting and said more staff and resources have been assigned to resolve these lingering glitches.
“We take this very seriously. We are committed to handling appeals well and effectively,” Lee said. “We still have work to do.”
The Health Consumer Alliance of San Diego, representing legal aid groups across the state, sent a letter to Covered California on Monday describing a litany of problems during the health-law rollout. “Some of these issues have continued for some time, including issues we first raised in early 2014 without adequate resolution for consumers,” the alliance said in the Aug. 17 letter. “Many consumers face considerable difficulties in enrolling in the correct plan with the correct level of financial assistance, even after coming to agreement with Covered California staff as to what should be done,” the group wrote.
The Health Consumer Alliance also described a lengthy wait for people after a “help desk ticket” is submitted to workers running the state’s online enrollment and eligibility system, known as CalHEERS.
Delays can stretch on for months with no assurances that any care people receive will be covered or reimbursed, forcing some patients to forgo treatment, according to the consumer group.
“It’s essential that consumers waiting in that help desk trouble queue get into a health plan,” said Jen Flory, a senior attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, part of the Health Consumer Alliance. “We want to make sure they get the proper attention.”