Obamacare: Great interest and glitches

Oct. 02, 2013 @ 04:32 PM

Local people trying to find out about the Affordable Care Act this week have mirrored the experience of people nationwide — heavy interest online and on the phone, but lots of delays and glitches.

On the first day for signups for what’s commonly become known as Obamacare, the White House reports that 2.8 million people visited the federal government’s HealthCare.gov website on Tuesday. The website is the clearinghouse for uninsured people to sign up for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
In addition, the hotline for the Affordable Care Act received 81,000 calls and the online help system logged 61,000 chats, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
But the interest locally and nationwide has been so heavy, the website and phone lines have been jammed by people seeking information about health insurance and possible subsidies for coverage of individuals and families who qualify based on income. To help people with questions, assistants known as navigators have been set up in communities across the country. One of those navigators for the Piedmont Triad is Southside United Health-Wellness in Winston-Salem.
Southside has been flooded with inquires since the health exchanges, as the insurance coverage options are called, opened for business early Tuesday, said outreach and enrollment coordinator William Dixon.
“I’ve had a lot of calls and I’ve been trying to make appointments. I’m trying to do a lot of group sessions,” Dixon told The High Point Enterprise.
The HealthCare.gov wesbite has moved slowly through early Wednesday afternoon because of the high interest from the public, he said.
“It’s taking us a long time to get logged into the system. When it’s not kicking you off the site, it’s going slow,” Dixon said.
Mark Thacker, an agent with Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. in High Point, said his office is ready to help people with coverage through the Affordable Care Act, though he acknowledges the number of people he can help efficiently will increase as more people can reach the website.
“A lot of people want to know what the rates are and how the subsidy works,” said Ryan Kauffman, a representative with Blue Cross Blue Shield.
High Point Regional Health System is training 15 to 20 navigators who will soon be able to help people in the community, said Becky Alley, a public relations specialist with the health system.
The health system will work with the High Point Public Library to set up public forums for local residents to learn about signing up for coverage, she said.
“It’s also our intent to have our navigators in the library a couple days a week helping people get signed up there,” Alley said. 
pjohnson@hpe.com | 888-3528


Obamacare local assistance
Have questions about the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare? Here are some local resources:
Southside United Health-Wellness, 3009 Waughtown St. in Winston-Salem, 293-8728
Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C., 517 N. Hamilton St. in High Point, 887-6570