Opening Day crowds…

Yesterday, Covered California announced metrics from its first week of operation, showing strong interest from Californians and thousands of enrollees.

In that first week of operations, from Tuesday through Saturday (Oct 1-5), there were 987,440 unique visits to, with over 59,000 calls to the call center. Online, 16,311 households completed their eligibility process and were determined eligible for subsidies, Medi-Cal or to enroll in an individual private plan. These household applications contained 28,699 individuals who completed eligibility determination. An additional 27,305 households had partially completed their online application.

Subsequent weekly statistics will be based on a Sunday-through-Saturday schedule. Total enrollment for October will be released in November.

The interest and demand is a testament to how much these new reforms and benefits were needed, especially in California. Californians are more likely to be uninsured, more likely to be unable to afford coverage, and more likely to be denied for pre-existing conditions than residents of all but a few other states. The federal health law and Covered California directly addresses these issues, providing new coverage that is more affordable and available than before. It’s gratifying that so early, almost three months before coverage starts, thousands have already gone through the enrollment process in the first week.

The most important indicators are the improvements is the consumer experience–the dramatic reduction of wait times, the added functionality of the website.
The average wait time was over 15 minutes, but that average came down to 4 minutes by Friday. The average handling time was 16:48 minutes.

We hope that the opening day crowds that swamped the systems will come back well before December 15th, the deadline to sign up for coverage to start on day one of 2014.

As the federal government is paralyzed by politics, we are glad that California has moved on from the political debate to the practical questions of getting people the benefits they need, so millions more benefit next year from the new options and consumer protections.

The more people we enroll, fewer people live sicker, die younger, and are one emergency away from financial ruin. For every person we don’t enroll, California leaves money in Washington, DC, rather than have those desperately-needed dollars come into our health system and economy. That’s our challenge in the next six months.

To put the application process in context, John Green compares applying for health coverage on the Obamacare exchange, to applying under the old applications without the new rules and consumer protections: