Mixed Reports on Healthcare.gov

Dec 3, 2013

Less than three weeks remain for uninsured Floridians to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act if they want coverage as of Jan. 1.  So navigators were relieved to find the federal health website running smoothly on Monday. 

On Monday, more than 750,000 Americans were able to gain access to Healthcare.gov, the enrollment site for the uninsured under the Affordable Care Act, according to a White House email sent Monday night.

Apparently in some regions, connection was a problem. The Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post both reported that navigators in south Florida were having trouble even getting access (paywall alert for both).

In other parts of the state, things were going more smoothly, according to Jodi Ray, the state's chief navigator for Healthcare.gov. She told Health News Florida that some of her 90 helpers around the state had great results.

 "They are having a much easier time getting through, utilizing the website, seeing much more success getting people from the initial account setup to actual enrollment," said Ray, project director for Florida Covering Kids & Families at the University of South Florida.  That program received a $4.2 million federal grant to hire and train navigators in most parts of Florida to help the uninsured sign up through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace.

Given the millions of uninsured in Florida, she says, those who need help had better not wait.
"Now it's time, if you need assistance, to go ahead and make an appointment, because it's getting to be crunch time as we start winding down toward that Dec. 23 date," Ray said.

Dec. 23 is the last day that an enrollment application can be processed for coverage to take effect Jan. 1. However, open enrollment for a health plan continues through March 31.

The Affordable Care Act requires Americans to obtain coverage if they don't already receive it at work or through a government program. There is a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of income for failure to do so, except for those below the poverty level and others who can show it would be a hardship.

Just as a reminder, www.Healthcare.Gov is NOT for Medicare shopping. Seniors 65 and older who participate in Medicare should visit www.Medicare.Gov. The Medicare open-enrollment deadline is Saturday, Dec. 7.

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Here are some ways that Florida shoppers can find help with enrollment:

  •  On the healthcare.gov site, you can search for information on a topic. You can also have a "chat" (by typing your question in a box on the screen) with a call-center employee. And there is a toll-free phone line, 1-800-318-2596.
  • This site lists the local groups in each area that can help with enrollment. For example, typing in the zip code for USF in Tampa brings up 22 groups from St. Petersburg to Orlando.
  • Members of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers have trained Navigators,  application counselors and outreach workers ready to help the uninsured. To find the nearest center, type in your county or zip code at this site.

--Health News Florida is part of WUSF Public Media. Contact Editor Carol Gentry at 813-974-8629 (desk) or e-mail at cgentry@wusf.org. For more health news, visit HealthNewsFlorida.org.