Californians who buy their own health insurance and those who have been hoping for coverage began using the state's online marketplace Tuesday after it opened for business on the first day of enrollment.
“We are open for business at Covered California,” said Robert Ross, M.D.CEO and President of The California Endowment and former director of the Health and Human Services Agency for the County of San Diego.
Covered California, as the new marketplace is known, began operating at 8 a.m. with a clock countdown and a ceremonial flipping of a switch.
No major glitches were immediately reported on the exchange, although the site was slow to load once users clicked on a tab that said "Start Here."
Covered California reported on Twitter that it received 30,000 calls by 9:30 a.m., with 1,200 people on hold and about 4 percent abandoning the calls.
The exchange is operating in the state that is home to 15 percent of the nation's uninsured. About 5.3 million Californians will be eligible to apply for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
“By the end of 2014, we hope to see as many as 2 million Californians who were previously uninsured now covered,” Ross said adding half will be through MediCal and the other half through the Exchange.
Those who already have health insurance through their employer generally will not be allowed to shop on the exchanges unless the coverage they are offered is grossly substandard and expensive.
Information is available in 13 languages, but those who are in the country illegally are not eligible for coverage.
Actual coverage through insurance purchased on the exchanges will start Jan. 1.
Beginning in 2014, virtually all Americans will be required to have health insurance or pay an annual penalty to the government. The penalty for an individual starts at $95 in 2014 but rises to a minimum of $695 by 2016.