The renewal process for 1.12 million individuals who enrolled in Covered California health-care plans last year has begun. Open enrollment is the next opportunity for all Californians to benefit from new insurance rules, including the requirement that insurance be offered regardless of health status.
The open enrollment period begins Nov. 15 and will continue through Feb. 15. In addition, this is the window of time when Californians can buy subsidized coverage starting in 2015.
After one season of being open, Covered California is prepared to improve and eliminate many problems and frustrations the public encountered last year. Substantial new improvements to facilitate enrollment in coverage for 2015 will be inaugurated this month.
The first wave of renewal notices was sent to consumers in October. Individuals who complete the renewal process will hear from their insurance plans in December. Their selected health plan will send a statement reflecting coverage starting Jan. 1, 2015. Consumers who take no action will be renewed into their existing plan.
Individuals who have health coverage through Medi-Cal will renew their coverage throughout the year on a rolling monthly schedule. Medi-Cal will contact them directly if they need to take action. Unless they are contacted by Medi-Cal, these individuals do not need to go to the Covered California website to renew or apply.
As of Oct. 16, a total of 1.12 million individuals had effectuated coverage and will be part of the renewal process. CoveredCA expects this number to increase as special enrollment continues and as recent enrollees effectuate their coverage, with about 1.3 million Californians participating in the renewal process through the end of the year.
After last year’s enrollment period, CoveredCA evaluated its performance and, based on its report, will implement several changes to improve and simplify the public ability to enroll and choose an appropriate health plan.
“We know this open-enrollment period will be more challenging in some ways. Consumers will only have three months to enroll, compared with the six months they had last time. This is complicated by our knowledge that many who are uninsured have adapted to a culture of coping and have become accustomed to living without health insurance,” said CoveredCA Executive Director Peter V. Lee.
Among the changes will be the number of Service Center representatives available to help. More than 1,300 representatives will help consumers over the phone, by chat or by processing their paper applications or documents. This is more than double the number of Service Center representatives — state employed and contractors — available at the end of the 2014 enrollment period.
With less than one month before open enrollment begins, consumers can begin shopping for 2015 coverage. They can find out if they are eligible for financial assistance and find out how much a health plan will cost them, by using Covered California’s Shop and Compare Tool (on CoveredCA.com at www.CoveredCA.com/shopandcompare/#calculator). CoveredCA also offers a full listing of the plans and their rates in the booklet “Health Insurance Companies and Plan Rates for 2015” (online at www.CoveredCA.com/PDFs/CC-health-plans-booklet-2015.pdf).
This year CoveredCA will have 254 Service Center representatives able to serve consumers in languages other than English, compared with 55 during open enrollment in 2013.
Service Center hours — including phone service and online chat — have been expanded to accommodate consumers after hours, with representatives now available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. In addition, the Service Center will be open on many Sundays during open enrollment, including every Sunday from Nov. 16 through Dec. 14.
CoveredCA is working with health plans to make it possible for consumers to make their first premium payment online as soon as they have selected a plan. This is intended to give consumers peace of mind that they have evidence that their payment has been received and they will have coverage in place.
Another effort to improve customer service was a substantial upgrade to the computer and telecommunications infrastructure. The enrollment portal can now allow for greater user capacity and speedier page loads so consumers don’t have to return later to complete an application.
For self-service, CoveredCA is redesigning its interactive voice response system to handle more consumer calls while decreasing wait times and updating consumers on wait times when they are placed on hold.
CoveredCA’s partners will open more than 200 storefronts in retail locations, such as malls, to help serve consumers on a drop-in basis that meets their scheduling needs. Consumers can get help at these sites to enroll, renew and learn more about health coverage options.
CoveredCA offers a range of choices of private health in surance plans. Consumers can choose the health plan and level of coverage (Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum) that best meets their health needs and budget.