Watch CBS News

Covered California Sends Deaf Callers To Hotline Offering 'Hot Ladies'

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — On the deadline to sign up for health coverage through Covered California, some hearing-impaired residents were sent to a chat line offering 'hot ladies' instead of an insurance navigator.

With the deadline looming, an Auburn man scrambled to sign up for Covered California.

A page on the site where users can calculate the cost of coverage lists an incorrect phone number as 1-888-899-4500. The number, which was correct on the Contact Us page, is similar, but just one digit off: 1-888-889-4500.

So what does the incorrect number go to? This is what greets callers instead of health insurance advice:

"Welcome to America's hottest talk line. Ladies, to talk to interesting and exciting guys free, press one now. Guys, hot ladies are waiting to talk to you. Press two to connect free now," the recording says.

Jeff Brown admits he dialed that number, thinking he was signing up for health insurance.

He logged onto the Covered California site just hours before the March 31 deadline. He filled out all the boxes, and then he says a box popped up saying he needed to call a 1-800 number.

He says when he called, all he got was a busy signal. He decided to try the number next to that, a TTY number for the hearing-impaired.

"I'll try this number again just in case I dialed it wrong—same thing," he said.

A Covered California spokesperson declined an on-camera interview, first saying by email, "We've never had the incorrect number on our site."

A screenshot captured by CBS13 shows the incorrect number as it appeared on the site.

Later, we would get another email saying in part, "...After investigating it further, we are reviewing the shop and compare tool as an incorrect number. We're currently working to correct the problem."

The mistake has since been fixed on the Covered California website.

"I guess it's an honest mistake," Brown said, "but websites aren't that hard to keep up right."

The Covered California spokesperson would later say the issue was isolated and only appeared under certain circumstances, but wouldn't elaborate.

Some users hurrying to sign up on the last day for Covered California ran into issues with the state's site, saying they had to sign up in person.

"I already signed up, so I have an account on the website, but I just haven't been able to access it," said Ron Randolph, who went to a facility in Sacramento to get help signing up with a person.

The applications had to be initiated by the end of Monday, but it doesn't have to be complete until April 15.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.