California enrolls 107,000 in Obamacare policies through November

Marta Viera smiles as she finishes her health insurance application under the Affordable Care Act with an enrollment counselor at a Los Angeles clinic last month.
(Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

California’s health exchange has signed up 107,087 people in Obamacare policies through the end of November, federal data show, accounting for nearly a third of enrollment nationwide.

The federal figures released Wednesday also show that 181,817 Californians have qualified for an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program for the poor.

California has been struggling to deal with a surge of applicants in recent weeks as part of the Affordable Care Act as well as dig through a backlog of paper applications. The average wait time for consumers calling Covered California hit 36 minutes last week, up from 25 minutes the previous week.


Consumers must sign up by Dec. 23 if they want coverage starting Jan. 1. Open enrollment in the exchange continues through March 31.

In October, 30,830 people enrolled in private health plans in California. The pace of sign-ups more than doubled during November with 76,257 selecting a health plan then.

In the last 10 days of November, federal data suggest, about 2,700 people were enrolling daily through Covered California.

Overall, 364,682 people have enrolled in private health insurance in federal and state exchanges nationwide through Nov. 30.

California’s enrollment accounts for 29% of the U.S. total. On Medicaid, California represents 23% of the national tally through November.

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Other leading states include New York with 45,513 enrolled in private health insurance, 17,908 in Florida and 17,770 in Washington state, according to the federal report.

Meantime, a top California official and some health-privacy experts have called on Covered California to stop sharing consumers’ contact information without their consent with insurance agents.

Last week, the California exchange started giving their certified agents access to names and contact information for tens of thousands of people who started an online application but never finished.

Democrat Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the exchange should halt the practice.

“Nothing will undermine the program more than a loss of the public trust,” Newsom said in a statement. “The decision to share private information with insurance agents without the consent of Californians is a serious mistake and should be rectified immediately.”

Newsom said the exchange should ask people to opt-in on the website before sharing their information. The exchange has said no personal details such as Social Security numbers or income were shared.

Christopher Rasmussen, a health privacy analyst at the Center for Democracy & Technology in San Francisco, agreed that Covered California should obtain permission first or handle any follow-up with consumers themselves.


“They shouldn’t have done this,” Rasmussen said. “It’s a stupid move by the exchange.”

Covered California has defended the program as another way to help people enroll and to draw on experienced agents who are ready to pitch in.

“We’ve got tens of thousands of people sitting there who had expressed an interest,” said Anne Gonzales, an exchange spokeswoman. “We don’t want them to fall through the cracks. We would like to get them over the finish line.”


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