Sometime, the call center staff can get in and process the application while the caller waits. If not, the staff can take the information, put it in a PDF and finish later. Even then, it’s just the application — once that’s processed, the customer still has to call back or get online to select the specific health plan they want and enroll.

People do not have to stay on hold indefinitely — a good thing because Sebelius said earlier in the week that the center has handled about 1.6 million calls.

It’s similar in the world of paper applications. …

Lau said the company does have the capacity to handle more than what’s expected — a paper surge. But he also said the customer’s data has to be entered into the Web portal and hinted there could be problems if volume dramatically increases. Lau didn’t say how long that takes, but a customer service representative said it would take about three weeks to complete the enrollment process.