SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The agency that runs California's health insurance exchange is scrambling to correct a technical problem that left blank spaces in eligibility notices mailed to nearly 114,000 households, leading to consumer confusion just days ahead of the application deadline.
A Covered California spokeswoman said Wednesday that the botched notices were mailed between Nov. 22 and Dec. 7. They went to people who had signed up under the state's rollout of the federal Affordable Care Act.
In some cases, the notices said the applicant was eligible for coverage but not eligible for something else that was unspecified, with only a blank space at the end of the sentence. The forms also omitted other key details, including tax credit amounts and whether the person was eligible for Medicaid, the state and federal health insurance program for lower-income people.
Agency spokeswoman Anne Gonzales characterized it as a technical problem that left blank spaces where text was supposed to be.
"It led to some system-generated notices, and they were confusing to consumers," she said. "We understand that."
Corrected notices will be mailed to the 113,847 affected households when the problem is fixed, but she said she did not know when that might be.
In the meantime, the health exchange is urging applicants to go to its website to view their enrollment status, or contact the licensed insurance agent or assister who helped them sign up for coverage.
This is the second time in less than two weeks that Covered California has had to address a potential problem with enrollment.
Last week, it announced a backlog of 25,000 paper applications that have to be processed by Monday so the applicants will have health insurance starting in the new year. On Wednesday, Gonzales said that backlog had been cut to 17,000 applications and the exchange is sticking to its Monday deadline to have all the data entered into its computer system.
Gonzales said the exchange is experiencing a surge in interest as the deadline approaches, and it will have its call centers staffed until 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
"It is all hands on deck right now," she said.
By the end of last month, some 109,000 people had signed up for coverage through the state's exchange and nearly 60 percent of them were between the ages of 45 and 64. Insurers want a higher proportion of younger, healthier people to sign up so the policies sold on the exchange will be financially viable for them.