Covered California opens Fresno call center

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, announced the opening of the health insurance exchange's Fresno call center.Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, announced the opening of the health insurance exchange's Fresno call center.Covered California officially opened its Fresno service center today with 150 representatives already handling calls for the health insurance exchange set up as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Located at the 7201 N. Palm Ave., the office is occupying the 570,000 square-foot northwest Fresno office building that was filled by Bank of America's call center until the company vacated in July.

Speaking at the opening of the call center today, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said 150 representatives started taking calls there on Monday while as many as 280 will be hired by the end of December.

Together with call centers already set up and running in Rancho Cordova and Contra Costa County, Covered California has nearly 500 representatives answering questions and helping people and businesses sign up with one of 11 carriers offering health insurance through the exchange.

Four of those plans are available to residents and businesses in the Central Valley.

"Together across these service centers, we responded to nearly 400,000 calls and those numbers are going up every week," Lee said. "What we're doing on these phone calls at the service center is not just answering calls. We're answering prayers. Prayers of thousands of Californians who had previouly been excluded coverage because of the health conditions they have. Thousands of Californians who previously could not afford health care."

Coverage begins Jan. 1 for those enrolled before the Dec. 15 deadline.

In the month since opening on Oct. 1, nearly 31,000 had picked a health insurance plan through Covered California—topping 36 other states with similar health insurance marketplaces—while 29,000 had been added in the first two weeks of November.

Lee said enrollment has been negatively affected somewhat by glitches in the federal Affordable Care Act website but offered the assurance that the state website was working just fine.

"We asked people their experience when they enroll. Seventy percent said it was easy to enroll," Lee said. "Eighty-eight percent said they could make the right plan choice with the information we provided at coveredca.com."

Lee said Covered California is still working hard to reduce wait times for people calling to speak to a service center representative. Last week, the wait time was around 24 minutes.

"The good news though is that we have community members throughout the state answering people's questions," Lee said.

Covered California was created in partnership with the California Department of Health Care Services to provide access to affordable health insurance as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.