Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Assessing the Covered California Online User Experience

The rollout of Covered  California presented many challenges, and turned out to be an expensive learning exercise. Many of the issues were clearly identified late in the game and are illuminated in this excellent report and videos sponsored by a grant from the the California Health Care Foundation

California enrolled 1.4 million people in new private health insurance plans during the first open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act. In February, as state officials were administering the sign-up campaign, research supported by the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) was conducted to study the experiences of consumers attempting to enroll online at

CHCF commissioned gotomedia, a San Francisco-based user interface research and design firm, to observe and interview a diverse group of Californians applying from computers in their own homes. Researchers observed consumers as they explored the site, created accounts, entered household and income data, and compared health plan options.

The result is reported and may be downloaded here in this white-paper.

Several videos are available which demonstrate several users attempting to use the Covered California Website.

 A video clip of a consumer trying to use the website shows this problem and illuminates how direct observation can be a revealing way to more fully understand the consumer experience.

Confusing Eligibility Results and Next Steps: Many users were not sure what they qualified for. Those eligible for Medi-Cal were disappointed at not being able to complete the enrollment process online. Watch Video

  • Understanding Questions: Some participants resorted to guessing and online searching when they didn't understand questions and when definitions and help were not available or inadequate. Watch Video
  • Steps and Sequences: Some participants were uncertain where to start on the site and about next steps as they progressed through the process. Watch Video
  • Entering Simple Data: Some users struggled to enter simple data, such as phone numbers, in the format required by the online system. Watch Video

  • State leaders and consumer advocates have identified several report recommendations as high priorities when planned enhancements are made to The full reports on and are available on CHCF’s website.

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