Enrollment Web site swamped, agent says

 

Daniel Haynes was among those who went Tuesday morning to Medical Associates Plus at Belle Terrace to try to enroll in the state Health Insurance Marketplace, only to find that the Web site for enrollment wasn’t working.

“I don’t have nothing,” said Haynes, 62, who had Medicaid after a stroke in 1999 but said he has since been cut off. “I can’t even get my medicine.”

Navigator Terri Gant, the community outreach manager for the clinic, found she eventually could get an account and password set up but could go no further. She ended up taking names to call people back when the system was working or to sign up people for classes on enrollment that the Community Health Clinic will hold Oct. 7 and Oct. 10 at the Augusta library main branch, 823 Telfair St.

“That’s why I didn’t want to hold (the classes) this week, because I knew everyone was going to be on the system and it was going to deadlock,” Gant said.

For three hours from the time open enrollment began at midnight, Augusta insurance agent Russell Head tried to get through at healthcare.gov to check on the plans and subsidies, but had no luck.

“Three of us who are certified brokers have been unable to log in; we’ve gotten maintenance errors; we’ve gotten program errors, basically telling us to come back later,” said Head, a partner at Group and Benefits Consultants Inc. “Basically, you just can’t get in.”

Nor can people reach the exchange plans by going through the Web sites of the insurance companies offering plans on the exchange, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield or one of the private exchanges, Head said.

“You can’t go direct, you can’t go indirect, and get access to the information that we need,” he said.

Even when they tried to use the site’s Live Chat feature, it took 22 minutes for someone to come on and say that, essentially, the site is swamped by the traffic, Head said.

It is not, in his mind, because the federal government is in partial shutdown. Even before that, the site was plagued by glitches and errors, and the training modules needed to get certified were full of problems that delayed certification for many brokers, Head said.

“We have been predicting for quite some time” that would happen, Head said. “If you can’t handle the agents and brokers across the country, how are you going to be able to handle the millions of people that want to get educated and understand what the plan designs look like and what the rates look like?”

In fact, it might be a good idea to wait until later in the month at least to try to sign up, Head said. In a meeting with Blue Cross earlier, he said, the provider told him it wouldn’t be able to post its network providers or the formulary of which drugs it will cover until Oct. 15.

“So somebody would be foolish to go ahead and sign up at this point in time anyway without truly being able to evaluate (the offerings in the exchange),” Head said.

Still, Haynes said he had been hoping Tuesday might be the day he got health insurance or at least saw what his options were.

“That would be nice,” he said.

Help available

• Medical Associates Plus at Belle Terrace will be holding sessions on enrollment in the state Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act from 9 a.m. to noon Monday and Oct. 10 at the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library, 823 Telfair St. The clinic asks that you call to reserve a spot because there is a limited number of computers available. Call (706) 790-4440or e-mail tgant@mapbt.com.

• Aiken County Parks, Recreation and Tourism and Rural Health Inc. will hold a presentation on the Affordable Care Act at 10 a.m. Oct. 16 at Aiken County Recreation Center, 917 U.S. Highway 1, Graniteville. For more information, call (803) 663-6142.

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