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Assemblyman Jeff Gorell plans to introduce a measure that protects the sensitive information of customers shopping for health insurance on the state exchange.

Seeking to close the deal with thousands of applicants, Covered California recently began providing customers' names and contact information to certified licensed insurance agents. Income and Social Security numbers were not passed along, exchange officials said.

Gorell, R-Camarillo, is challenging freshman Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley in one of several closely-watched congressional races in the state where partisan rancor over the health care overhaul is expected to be a defining campaign issue.

"When people browse the Covered California website to learn about their health insurance options, the last thing they expect is for the state to hand their personal information to telemarketers," Gorell said in a statement accompanying the announcement. "This legislation will require that Covered California keep site visitors' information private unless the customer explicitly gives consent to be contacted."

Exchange officials acknowledged the pilot program to The Sacramento Bee two weeks ago when Moorpark consultant Robert Blatt complained his privacy was violated after receiving unsolicited emails from an insurance agent.

Last Week, Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said the program was just one of the ways the exchange was trying to reach out to customers in need of help, including those questioning whether their application had been completed.

More than a quarter million applicants were eligible for coverage but had yet to select plans. The licensed agents receive additional training and complete criminal background checks.

"When you sign up at Covered California, our privacy rules state specifically that we may follow up with you to help you complete enrollment," Lee said. "One of the things we need to communicate more effectively is 'we' includes licensed agents that we have contracts with. These are not just any licensed agents."

He added that thousands of customers were grateful to be receiving the calls.

The names of certified insurance agents are available at CoveredCA.com.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo speaks with Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, during session on March 11, 2013.



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