SAN DIEGO - Talk about a Christmas rush. Insurance agents around California are eyeing the calendar nervously. There's just 13 days until the deadline to get their clients health insurance for the start of the new year.
While many San Diegans are flocking to the malls for hours of holiday shopping, insurance underwriter Craig Gussin and his staff are working late nights and weekends to meet a December 23rd deadline. That's the date when people have to sign up if they want to get health coverage by January first.
But Gussin says the website site is slow and frustrating to use.
"Literally, it's climbing uphill to get everything done," says Gussin. "Depends on the time of day. I had two people send me an email. One says 'Hey, got done in 20 minutes,' the other says 'I've been dealing with them for an hour.' It's just a luck of the draw, but these are the things we're dealing with."
The problems obvious to Gussin are also apparent to the people running the Covered California website, CoveredCa.com. This week, the state admitted to a backlog of 25,000 paper applications still waiting to be entered.
And Gussin says he thinks that's too low. "Last I heard it's 100,000 and that's a couple of weeks ago."
The backlog began when Gussin and other insurance agents found they couldn't use the website for their clients until a glitch got fixed six weeks after the website launched.
In the meantime, they got stuck sending paper forms in by mail... or by fax.
"So we've been faxing in applications, that's what Covered California told us to do. But even then, there was no way for us to figure out if that person was in the system at Covered California. Today, we still have people we had faxed in a month and a half ago that still have not shown up in our system, under Covered California."
So it's no surprise that Gussin isn't optimistic the state can handle the backlog. "It's just, you can't do it on December 10, with 13 days left, and, they're that far behind."
And that could be a big disappointment for people who counted on having health insurance by Jan. 1. "So what do you on January second if you get sick, or your kid gets sick?"
"It's got to get better or we're in trouble."
We contacted Covered California in Sacramento and were told that they're working through the backlog of paper applications and expect to have them processed by the end of the week.
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