Covered California logo (Courtesy CoveredCA.com)
SACRAMENTO - Unannounced, the state's health exchange has given insurance agents the names and contact information for 60,000 Californians who went online to check out coverage but didn't finish the enrollment process.
Dana Howard with Covered California says the exchange started handing out this consumer information last week to help people enroll ahead of a Dec. 23 deadline to have health insurance in place by Jan. 1.
"There are many applicants, and so to speed up that process instead of just our service center staff contacting them by phone, we are assigning these cases to certified insurance agents to help them finish the enrollment process so that the application doesn't just stay stagnant," said Howard.
Seven certified, licensed insurance agents have been hired to essentially "seal the deal" on Californians health care coverage.
"They are licensed by the California Department of Insurance, they have gone through fingerprinting, and they have been background-checked. These are not just any old insurance agent - they are part of Covered California," said Howard.
Legally, those agents cannot sell your information to a third party, but if you've started the application process, you'll be getting a phone call or an email, like it or not.
"There isn't a way for somebody to say that they don't want to be contacted by CC. When you apply for Covered California, you are inherently through that application: you are applying and saying you can contact me to follow up," Howard said.
Howard went on to say Covered California does not offer any incentives to the insurance agents for registering consumers, but agents do work on commission from the health insurance plans.
The information sharing is raising concerns about consumer privacy.
"I would say it was a breach of privacy, yeah," said one Sacramento woman.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement:
The decision to share private information with insurance agents without the consent of Californians is a serious mistake and should be rectified immediately. This could be handled with a simple opt-in field on the site that allows people to give consent to Covered California to share their information.
Howard said Covered California has not received any complaints from consumers, and they plan on adding more agents to help manage consumer applications in the near future.
"We don't buy into that there is widespread anger and concern. we are not getting those kinds of calls," he said.
If you've already started the application process, the only way to remove yourself from the phone and email list is by contacting Covered California and asking them to remove your application entirely.
by Dina Kupfer, DKupfer@news10.net