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Covered California Not Yet All It Can Be, Consumer Group Says

Credit: Covered California

Aired 4/9/14 on KPBS News.

A prominent consumer group says Covered California has plenty of work to do to improve its operations.

A new report from the nonprofit group Health Access California offers a number of recommendations as Obamacare moves forward.

The report says California's online health insurance exchange must improve its customer service. It needs to reduce call center wait times and provide a fully functioning search tool for people to see which doctors are covered under which plans.

Challenges Identified

According to the report, how Covered California needs to improve:

  • Smoother, glitch-free website experience.
  • In Spanish, other languages.
  • Call center with the capacity to answer inquiries quickly.
  • More community enrollment counselors.
  • More concerted campaign to educate and enroll harder-to-reach populations.
  • Improved tools to help consumers to select plans and make comparisons beyond price (quality ratings, working and accurate provider search tool).
  • More effort to make Covered California choices easier to understand and the best value.

Source: Health Access California's "Mission Advanced But Not Accomplished: Four Years of Health Reform in California"

Health Access Executive Director Anthony Wright said at the same time, policymakers should take steps to make health care charges more transparent.

“There’s very few other areas of the economy where the pricing is so opaque and where what you’re getting for that cost is unknowable," Wright said.

More than 1.2 million people enrolled in health plans through Covered California in its first year of operation.

To ensure that patients are getting timely access to care, Wright believes state regulators need to monitor the plans closely.

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