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    California spent a below-average proportion of its state budget on education in 2012, compared with other states, but had one of the nation's highest relative levels of welfare spending, according to a new Census Bureau report. The report says the $72.7 billion California spent on education represented 33.8 percent of its total spending, two points lower than the national average. California spent $69.1 billion on welfare, or 32.1 percent, well over the national average of 29.7 percent and eighth highest among the states.

    – Dan Walters

The Buzz: California health exchange acknowledges ‘unacceptable’ service

Published: Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 - 12:00 am

Covered California critical of its customer service

In a moment of public soul-searching, Covered California officials on Thursday described the health exchange’s level of service in its first three months as “completely unacceptable” and said they would apply the lessons to the next three months of enrollment.

“We know that thousands didn’t have a good experience,” Yolanda Richardson, deputy chief operations officer, told the exchange’s board of directors. “We’re not satisfied with that. And we know we have a lot of work to do.”

California continues to lead the nation with about 625,000 people enrolled in coverage. But long wait times and sluggish performance periodically plagued the exchange’s customer service center and online enrollment portal.

“In many instances we did not meet our standard going back to our guiding principle of providing a first-class customer service experience,” Richardson said, adding that the goal was to answer 80 percent of the calls in 30 seconds. Wait times routinely exceeded one hour and in some cases were so long that customers were automatically disconnected, officials said.

The exchange now wants to add 350 customer-service employees and a dedicated line for insurance agents.

– Christopher Cadelago

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