Navigators still busy with health insurance sign up

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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WICHITA, Kan. -- The deadline has passed, but many Americans are still working to enroll in health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act.

President Barack Obama said Tuesday 7.1 million Americans have signed up for health insurance plans. However, another round of website woes has some people waiting to complete the process.

Those helping others enroll said Kansas was very much part of the last-minute enrollment rush.

"The last couple of weeks, we were averaging about 135 phone calls per day," said Juven Nava, a certified marketplace navigator with GraceMed in Wichita.

So many people rushed to meet the enrollment deadline that the website became overloaded. Nava heard of other delays.

"We were hearing from consumers that when they called the 1-800 number for the marketplace, they were just taking their name and their state and their phone number just to give them a call back," he said.

Those who started the process before the deadline will be granted an extension to complete the process and avoid a tax penalty.

President Obama said Tuesday there were enough last-minute enrollees to meet White House projections.

"Despite several lost weeks out of the gate, 7.1 million Americans have now signed up for health care," he said.

Most of the out-of-the-gate problems were with the website. The website was essentially non-functional for nearly two months when enrollment began last fall. Nava said the system got much better over time.

"Seeing the progress, getting easier online, seeing the website changes as well as getting more clarification and assisting more people, it became an easier process," Nava said.

The next enrollment period opens Nov. 15, but Nava expects more people will enroll before that.

"If there's special circumstances in your life that happen, you can enroll or change your plan, so we're still going to be dealing with that throughout the year," he said.

Those special circumstances under which consumers can buy health insurance outside of the open enrollment period include taking a new job, getting married or having a change of income.

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