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Covered California Hires More Staff To Improve Customer Service

Aired 2/10/14 on KPBS News.

After much criticism, Covered California says it’s beefing up staff at its call centers to try to reduce wait times for consumers.

Covered California officials concede their customer service leaves much to be desired.

In early January, callers had to wait an average of 39 minutes to talk to a real person at the exchange.

That average wait time has climbed to 51 minutes.

Covered California executive director Peter Lee said that’s why he’s adding 350 people to their customer service staff.

Lee admits the wait times have been frustratingly long.

“Our goal was to have 80 percent of the calls answered in 30 seconds," Lee explained. "We are way off that. We’ve wanted from day one for consumers in California to have a first-class consumer experience. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened.”

Lee said Covered California is also hiring more people to provide online chat service, for those who just need a few questions answered.

In addition, the exchange is creating a dedicated line for certified enrollment counselors who need help completing their clients' applications.

More than 625,000 people have signed up for new health plans through the exchange. Officials expect online traffic will increase as the March 31 open enrollment deadline approaches.

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