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California’s Insurance Exchange Gears Up For Round Two

California’s insurance exchange began mailing renewal notices this week to more than 1.1 million people already enrolled in health plans, officials announced Thursday.

Consumers who want to make changes must do so by Dec. 15 for coverage effective Jan. 1, while those who want to keep their current plans will be renewed automatically.

The renewals are occurring as the state’s marketplace, Covered California, gears up for the open enrollment period for new consumers. Between Nov. 15 and Feb. 15, Covered California hopes to enroll more than 500,000 new people, which would bring the total to about 1.7 million.

united states globe 300.jpgCovered California also announced several changes Thursday designed to improve the enrollment process. It will nearly double the number of representatives at the call centers, including operators that speak Spanish and Korean, and extend the centers’ hours.

“Last year people waited too long on the phone,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. “We don’t want that to be the case this year.”

About 200 storefronts will be available in malls and shopping centers for people to get in-person help. And Covered California plans to work more closely with insurance providers. More than 12,000 insurance agents, 10,000 county workers and 6,400 enrollment counselors will be on hand to help enroll consumers.

Covered California said it is making improvements to its website, to meet the demand. In addition, those who want to pay for their premiums immediately upon signing up will be able to do so rather than wait for a bill.

The agency released a report Thursday about the lessons learned from the first open enrollment, including that affordability means different things to different populations and that many consumers need extensive education about health insurance.

“We didn’t do everything perfectly,” Lee said. “We’ve taken those lessons and are now applying them as we move into open enrollment for next year.”

About 80 percent of those who signed up for insurance coverage last round paid their premiums. Just over 10,000 people will have their coverage cancelled by the end of the month because they failed to prove they were in the U.S. legally.

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