Thousands of Californians seeking to buy their own health insurance flooded call centers with questions and overloaded the state's online marketplace Tuesday on the first day of a new federal health care law according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Dozens of workers at a call center in the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova began fielding calls after a countdown to the 8 a.m. opening of the health exchange. The agency that runs the exchange, Covered California, initially reported on Twitter that more than 30,000 telephone calls were received during the first 90 minutes of operations, but later lowered the number to 6,500.
"We are here in California on the right side of history," Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said during a news event in the Rancho Cordova call center, one of three in the state.
Some 5.3 million Californians are eligible to apply for coverage under President Barack Obama's health law, known as "Obamacare," about 1.4 million of them through expanded access to the state's health insurance program for the poor, Medi-Cal.
The first completed health insurance application was taken at 8:04 a.m., said Carene Carolan, deputy director of the Rancho Cordova service center.
"We are getting a huge, huge volume of calls," she said.
Officials said figures on how many people enrolled would not be available until Nov. 15, as agents need time to process and approve the applications.
California is being seen as a laboratory for the nation's health care overhaul, and call center workers have been training for months to answer questions. The three call centers in the eastern San Francisco Bay Area city of Concord, Fresno and Rancho Cordova were flooded with calls even before Tuesday's opening.