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    Health Care Reform:

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    Getting Health Insurance: It's a Marathon


    In California, insurance companies have sent out more than 60,000 invoices but few customers have paid, Lee said. Covered California is running radio advertisements reminding people about the payment deadline, and insurance companies are adding staff and expanding hours to process applications and payments.

    Sharp Health Plan, based in San Diego, is allowing consumers to pay by phone, online and in person, and plans to stay open every day but Christmas and New Year's.

    "We are all on call and we are all trained to accept payment," said Melissa Hayden-Cook, CEO of the company.

    Blue Shield of California spokesman Steve Shivinsky said the company is sending out letters reminding applicants to pay. “It is going to be quite clear to the consumer that we have received their application and now it is time for them to write their first month’s premium payment,” he said.

    Covered California didn't start transferring applicants' information to insurers until several weeks into open enrollment. Spokesman Dana Howard said the exchange was making sure the system worked and that the insurance companies were set up to receive the data.

    Insurance companies said they are now receiving the data daily and the information is largely complete and accurate, in contrast to the problems in the federal exchange.

    But people are submitting new applications at an ever-faster clip, and Covered California is making its way through a backlog of paper applications. California Association of Health Underwriters president-elect Patrick Burns said he anticipated an onslaught of applications before Dec. 23 that could test the system even further.

    Agents say the state’s helpline isn’t helping. Insurance professionals with questions have to call on the same line as regular customers, lengthening everyone’s wait for answers.

    The wait time for help reached 36 minutes last week.

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

    Mon, Dec 16 2013

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