Frustration grows over Washington Health Exchange call center



SEATTLE, Wash. - As the state touts its success enrolling people for Obamacare online, many people are having a hard time getting their questions answered from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. Last Monday, more than 17,000 people called 855-WAFINDER, but many people aren’t getting through. 

In the first week of November, the exchange throttled 76,000 calls, meaning the caller received a message telling them to call back later. 

So, on Monday morning at 11:30 a.m.,KIRO 7 gave it a shot. 

The message we got right away was “We appreciate your continued patience as we continue to improve our customer service in response to such overwhelming public interest.” 

After going through a few phone prompts we got a message that said, “We are currently experiencing higher than normal call volume, and wait times may be longer than usual.” 

The next recording told us the expected wait time was just one minute.  But that turned out to be a false promise full of elevator music.  We hung up after five minutes on hold. 

In the month of October, 167,000 people called the exchange and 44,000 didn’t have time to wait on hold.  For the month, just over 28 percent of calls were actually handled by a person. 

A spokesperson for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange said the number of callers will only increase as we approach the Dec. 31 deadline to sign up for the Afordable Care Act, so the state is beefing up its staff. 

The call center started with 80 people.  Currently, 145 new staff members are being trained, and by mid-December the call center will have 286 total customer service representatives. 

The numbers for November aren't final yet, but the state is on pace to more than quadruple the number of people throttled in October.