Covered California opens its doors

Peter Lee of Covered California health exchange celebrates opening in Los Angeles

CEO Peter Lee celebrates Covered California launch at Los Angeles’ Union Station

Covered California is up and running. For the most part.

“Our phone lines are humming, our web site is live, and we stand with thousands of Californians across the state as we kick off our effort to help educate and enroll millions of currently uninsured Californians,” health exchange CEO Peter Lee said on opening day, Oct. 1.

Lee isn’t expecting a flood of sign-ups the first week — in fact, he joked with reporters that only two people would enroll in October.

Nevertheless, Covered California was struggling to deal with the expected flood of shoppers seeking individual health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

There was one sign of trouble: Covered California announced late on the first day that its web site enrollment section was going off line for tweaks for nine hours: “To ensure that consumers will have a good experience going forward.”

Lee (pictured) recently predicted that as many as 700,000 Californians who are eligible for subsidies would sign up in the first six months.

The earliest policies can go into effect is Jan. 1, 2014. This first “open enrollment” period runs through March 31.

The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) also opened Oct. 1 with policies being written for Jan. 1. The program is not limited to the six-month open-enrollment period.

Diana Dooley, chairwoman of the Covered California Board, recently quoted the Rolling Stones in saying the health insurance exchange may not be providing all that officials wanted on day 1, but they’re getting what is needed.

“From Eureka to San Diego, from the Central Valley to the Central Coast, we want Californians to know we are open for business,” said Dooley, who is also secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency. “The (Gov. Jerry) Brown administration is proud to be a part of this historic change to make coverage affordable for all Californians.”

Lee made sure to get out the word that California’s leading health marketplace under the Affordable Care Act was open and functioning, despite the day’s politically charged shutdown of the federal government: “Our success does not depend on what happens in Washington or Sacramento,” Lee said, adding:

Here, and in every state in the nation, health care marketplaces are ushering in a new era in U.S. history, one that will provide its citizens with the health care they need, when they need it, through high-quality, affordable insurance. … Health care is no longer a privilege, but a right, and is now within reach for millions of Americans.

Here are some key links to the Covered California web site:

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