Colorado marketplace call center wait times spike amid enrollment surge

Published: December 10, 2013, 5:07 pm, by Jakob Rodgers
Customer representatives answer phone calls Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, at the Colorado Springs call center for Connect for Health Colorado. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Customer representatives answer phone calls Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, at the Colorado Springs call center for Connect for Health Colorado. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Tried calling the state’s new health insurance marketplace lately? Odds are, you likely had to wait a while to talk to anyone.

Officials running Connect for Health Colorado say the marketplace’s customer service center has been inundated with phone calls recently, and each call is taking longer to answer and longer to finish.

The average call wait time for all calls dating back to Oct. 1 — the day the marketplace opened — is 7 minutes, 23 seconds, said Patty Fontneau, Connect for Health Colorado’s chief executive and executive director.

But that figure isn’t really truly representative of how long people are waiting right now, she said, because it includes calls from October, when far fewer people dialed the service center.

“Lately it’s 30 minutes, it’s been 30 minutes, 40 minutes — it is, it’s long,” Fontneau told the exchange’s board of directors Monday. “It’s long we are working to resolve it, but people are waiting.”

In light of the spike in calls — and ahead of an expected surge of enrollments later this month — marketplace officials have tried to beef up the call center’s capacity.

As of Monday, the call center had 166 customer service representatives, said Lindy Hinman, the marketplace’s chief executive officer. She added that the call center has shortened lunch hours and asked employees to work overtime — both of which have expanded the capacity to take calls, she said.

Fontneau framed the longer wait times as a sign that more people are ready to enroll — rather than just window shop.

“It’s people buying,” said Patty Fontneau, Connect for Health Colorado’s chief executive. “What’s happening now is they’ve moved from the poking around and asking the shorter questions, to ‘I want to sit down, I want to look at these policies, I’m going to make these decisions, I’m going to purchase.’  And it just takes longer.”

Mondays and Tuesdays are usually the busiest days for the call center, and wait times are longest between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., marketplace officials said.

Call center representatives usually answer calls the quickest from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The call center’s open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, though it will also be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday and Dec. 22.

Coloradans have until Dec. 23 to enroll, if they want that coverage to begin on Jan. 1. People who don’t mind their coverage beginning later in the year can wait until March 31 to enroll in a plan.