With deadline approaching, health care website woes seem few

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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WICHITA, Kan. -- A little more than a month remains before open enrollment for health insurance plans offered under the Affordable Care Act closes for 2014.

Many people who tried to sign up for coverage when open enrollment began in October could not. The much-troubled rollout of healthcare.gov, the federal online marketplace for insurance plans, led to several deadline extensions.

With the final deadline approaching, complaints about the website have decreased.

"The process is actually going much better than it was in the beginning," said Juven Nava, outreach coordinator for GraceMed.

Nava is also one of GraceMed's certified navigators in place to help consumers with questions they have about the website or the plan.

When the website was rolled out, those trying to sign up for health insurance plans and navigators like Nava found nothing but frustration.

"We were told it would be the end of November when they finally got the bugs worked out," Nava said in early November.

Thursday, Nava said enrolling through the website takes much less time than it did when consumers first were finally able to complete the process in November.

"It was taking two to three hours to enroll someone and now it can go as quickly as 45 minutes," he said.

Insurance broker Joel Rutledge said his clients also are having a much better experience with the website.

"It's actually going a lot smoother now," Rutledge said. "The marketplace is open, the exchanges work and people can actually get through and complete their applications."

The deadline for previously uninsured Americans to sign up for coverage that will begin in time for them to avoid a tax penalty is March 15. Rutledge said consumers should not wait until the last minute.

"I think the only thing that might throw a hitch at the last minute is if we have a huge number of people at the last minute trying to get their applications through," he said. "That might not play in their favor, so I would encourage people to get started as quickly as possible."

Anyone who wants the help of a navigator needs to schedule an appointment soon, Nava said.

"We have five navigators and we're all pretty booked when it comes to trying to get people in," he said.

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