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RB_Covered_California_3.JPGThe head of California's health insurance marketplace announced Tuesday that 16,311 households completed applications in the first week of enrollment.

Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said the response Oct. 1-5 underscores the demand for health insurance in the state. Some 27,305 households have partially completed applications.

In addition, more than 430 small businesses have signed up.

Actual enrollment figures will not become available until customers start paying for and then receiving insurance benefits come Jan. 1.

Lee said the agency had not originally planned to release the figures but decided to do so to counter persistent criticism of the agency's activity.

He suggested that early media coverage of the launch has tended to focus more on apparent glitches than on the people who will benefit from health care. In describing some of the coverage as "continued efforts at disinformation," Lee acknowledged that the agency has had some early challenges.

"Has it been perfect?" he asked of the site's rollout. "Absolutely not."

Still, Lee told reporters at the agency's headquarters in Sacramento that he was pleased thus far. "Looking back at this one week, the response has been nothing short of phenomenal," he said.

Despite getting off to the rocky start, Lee said the state exchange's website received more than 987,440 unique visitors and more than 59,000 calls into its customer service center through Saturday. Wait times have improved from as long as 40 minutes on Tuesday, the day it launched, to four minutes on Friday.

The target is for eight in 10 calls to wait 30 seconds or fewer, he said.

PHOTO: Enrollment operators take phone calls during the launch of Covered California in Rancho Cordova on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton



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