RANCHO CORDOVA (CBS13) – The Affordable Care Act kicked off in California on Tuesday, and almost immediately a call center set up to handle questions was inundated with calls.
The first of three federally funded call centers in California opened their phone lines just before 8 a.m. And as expected, the phone lines were soon jammed.
Covered California representatives put the call center online just before 8 a.m., and by 8:05 the first call came in. Representatives at the call center are answering questions about the exchange handling California’s version of the federally mandated health insurance.
“Here in Sacramento you have four [plans] to choose from,” said Covered California director Peter Lee.
But Choosing between insurance plans, how to enroll, coverage rates and even getting someone on the phone, had some frustrated right away.
“First impressions are the most important. And when I call and get a 30-minute wait it’s very discouraging,” said the woman who did not want to be identified.
She said she couldn’t get through over the phone just 30 minutes after the lines opened, so she decided to come to the call center. Although the center does not accept face-to-face applicants, she said still had a hard time finding someone who could tell her where to go.
“There is this big building — cameras everywhere and people in suits — yet no one can tell me, someone that this program is designed for, where to go,” she said.
Like most first-to-market products, there will be kinks to work out and changes to make along the way. According to a consumer advocate, jammed lines and a rush for information is a good sign.
“The fact that there are a ton of calls at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday shows how big there demand is,” said Anthony Wright, the director of Health Access Consumer Group.
About 300 employees are taking calls at center. Another office opened Tuesday in Concord, with a third slated to open in Fresno in November. Call center hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday. It is also open on Saturday, but for fewer hours.
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