Covered California has a clock on its website, counting down to the Jan. 1 start of insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. But it's the countdown to Oct. 1, the deadline to get things up and running for open enrollment, which has officials working overtime.
"The open enrollment period is meaningful," Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee told an audience at a town hall meeting in San Francisco earlier this month.
Lee has been headlining information sessions across the state, getting the word out about enrolling for so-called Obamacare. He is holding off on a media campaign until closer to the start of enrollment in October. The state is hoping to enroll more than 1.5 million people for coverage by 2015, and is hiring personnel to man call centers and training so-called navigators, who will assist with in-person sign-up for insurance.
With six weeks left until the launch of open enrollment, he expressed confidence that the Golden State's online marketplace will be ready on time for people to begin signing up in October.
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"We're testing every week new elements," Lee explained after the San Francisco event, assuring that Covered California will be ready. "We're testing not only what we do, but how do we relate to the federal hub. And the tests are going well."
The federal hub is the central data clearing house, which will connect state exchanges like California's and the federally built exchanges to data at the Internal Revenue Service and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The hub will play a key role in income verification and determining eligibility for insurance subsidies, and for providing payment to insurers. Its readiness is also a key issue, because of very tight deadlines for testing the system.