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Secret Shopper Survey Finds Health Agencies Strong On Customer Service

Aired 5/9/12 on KPBS News.

A new survey finds when it comes to providing answers to consumers, California health agencies do a good job.

— A new survey finds California health agencies do a pretty good job in answering questions from consumers. The survey used "mystery shoppers" to make more than 200 phone calls.

The non-profit group Health Access California conducted the study. More than a dozen people posed questions to four key health agencies, including the Department of Insurance.

The queries ranged from problems with enrollment in health plans, to difficulty in getting an appointment with a specialist.

Anthony Wright heads up Health Access. He said for the most part, callers got the help they needed without having to wait.

"While some of the results were uneven, most callers were able to get a call answered within ten seconds, get a live human being in a couple of minutes, and get professional, accurate, and helpful answers," Wright pointed out.

Still, the report did find room for improvement. Health Access's Linda Leu said health agencies need to make their websites more consumer-friendly.

"Finding the correct phone number from agency websites was very difficult in some cases for the designers of the survey, who are Internet-savvy and well-versed in the health care system," Leu said. "The world's greatest call center will be of no use if you can't find the phone number."

Anthony Wright said as California continues to roll out health reform, state agencies must make sure customer service is a top priority.

"And we expect there will be a crush of calls from Californians seeking to understand, and take advantage of these new benefits," Wright added.

Millions of uninsured Californians will be newly eligible for subsidized coverage in 2014.

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