On Eve of Deadline, Covered California Computer Problem Messes up 37,000 Applications

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Covered California, in the vernacular of journalists, buried the lead in a posting on its website Friday.

While it’s good to know that “Covered California™ is currently restoring data from applications completed during a software malfunction occurring Feb. 17 through Feb. 19,” it’s probably more important to know what is in the eighth paragraph:

“14,500 consumers who partially completed their applications or submitted updates to existing applications within the time frame . . . should either start a new application or resubmit any updates they made.”

The health exchange said the computer problems that crashed its website for five days last month messed up a total of 37,000 consumer applications and—like the airline employee who chastises passengers boarding a plane already delayed by two hours that it is important they not screw around when stashing their bags and parking their butts because promptness counts—warned that it was important they refile by the March 15 deadline.

Around 6,500 applicants who completed their applications and thought they were done are not. Their applications may not be visible on the website, but the information was still forwarded to the selected health insurance company. Covered California says it will restore their data and the company will process it. All the consumers must do is “make their payment by their health insurance plan’s deadline for April 1 coverage.”

Applications from another 16,000 likely Medi-Cal qualifiers were also messed up. “That information is being fully restored by Covered California” before being processed by the relevant county. “There is no action needed from these consumers,” according to Covered California, although skeptics “should call their county human services agency.”

Paper applications were said not to be affected by this snafu and people reluctant to trust the computer system again or otherwise constrained were invited by the health exchange to call, Covered California spokeswoman Anne Gonzales told the Sacramento Bee.

The health exchange has been going gangbusters of late, despite a string of technical problems, a buggy website, slow response times and the state’s failure to work out ahead of time what doctors were available in the system. As of January 31, enrollment of 1.6 million Californians had already exceeded the March 15 goal.

Covered California said its representatives would be calling those affected by the computer crash and offering information about their status and assistance in completing the process if necessary. Although there may be a temptation to put them on interminable hold with sputtering bad Muzak in the background, it is not recommended.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Covered California Software Glitch Affects 37,000 Health Care Applicants (by Christopher Cadelago, Sacramento Bee)

Covered California and Department of Health Care Services Outline Impacts of Last Week’s Software Problem (Covered California)

FACT SHEET: Understanding Implications of Covered California Data Recovery (Covered California)

“Doc Shock”: Why Can’t Covered California Provide Accurate Physician and Hospital Lists? (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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