Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bureaucrats 'looking under rocks' to find anyone eligible to buy Obamacare

Covered California will have 20,000 people helping the nearly 10 million uninsured sign up for coverage, said spokeswoman Anne Gonzales. It also expects to hire 500 agents for a call center in Rancho Cordova, several hundred in Fresno and up to 200 in Contra Costa, people from many walks of life, including some who have been jobless for months and who will receive intense training.

Figuring out how many people are needed to enroll, say, 1,000 of the uninsured and field calls from those who are flummoxed by the online marketplaces is as much art as science, said Bruce Caswell, president of Maximus Health Services, a government contractor that handles Medicaid enrollment in 18 states and will run Obamacare call centers for Vermont, Hawaii and Maryland.

Maximus starts with estimates of the percentage of a state's uninsured who are expected to buy coverage through its exchange. It then estimates how many will call for enrollment help and calculates the percentage likely to be "deflected" with a robo-answering program ("press 3 if your address has changed"), which is often about 20 percent, said Caswell. It then plugs in the expected length of a call (four and a half minutes for Medicaid enrollees) and out comes an answer: Maximus will need 25 staffers for Hawaii, where about 153,000 adults are uninsured.

Many of the groups sending forces into the Obamacare fray are community-based healthcare organizations. Earlier this month, Washington's Healthplanfinder announced grants of $6 million to groups to help people enroll for coverage, including the Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement.

The group will use its grant "to look under rocks if we have to" and find Washingtonians eligible to buy insurance through the exchange, said Deputy Director Elya Moore. "We'll go to community events, health fairs and even the 93-mile 'Ski to Sea' race" from Mount Baker to the coast, Moore said. They don't envision hiring more members of their "access team," who help people enroll in Medicaid and children's health insurance programs.