California insurance provider mistakenly directs hearing impaired to sex hotline

Informational pamphlets are displayed during a healthcare enrollment fair at the Bay Area Rescue Mission on March 31 in Richmond, California.
Informational pamphlets are displayed during a healthcare enrollment fair at the Bay Area Rescue Mission on March 31 in Richmond, California. –Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Some hearing-impaired California residents got quite a surprise as they tried to sign up for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act by the March 31 deadline. When they called the insurance provider Covered California, they were connected with a sex chat hotline, instead of an insurance company.

How did this happen? According to CBS Sacramento, there is a page on the insurance provider’s website that lists phone numbers to call if users want to compare coverage costs. The page listed an incorrect phone number (1-888-899-4500) for hearing-impaired residents. The correct number was, however, listed on the contact page of the website (1-888-889-4500). The numbers are similar, with only one number off.

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CBS Sacramento reports:

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.

One California resident said he logged into the Covered California site and filled out his information, only to get pop-up box advising him to call. After receiving a busy signal, he tried the phone number listed beside the number he just called, which was the TTY number for deaf residents. When he called, he received the sex hotline message above. The resident tried the number again in case he misdialed, only to get the same message.

A spokesman for Covered California initially refuted that the number was listed incorrectly on the company’s website, but after investigating, admitted the number was incorrect, The Daily Mail reports.

At first Roy Kennedy, a spokesman for Covered California, denied that the wrong number had ever been on the site but then admitted: 'After investigating it further, we are reviewing the shop and compare tool as an incorrect number. We're currently working to correct the problem.' He later said that the wrong number only appeared under certain circumstances but would not explain what they are.

Although March 31 was the last official day to sign up, many Americans may be eligible for extensions. The federal government will accept paper applications until April 7 for those who couldn’t finish enrollment because of certain circumstances.

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