The Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace opened Tuesday, Oct. 1, allowing millions of Americans the opportunity to shop for and purchase health insurance coverage or enroll in an expanded Medicaid program.
Requirements that consumers create online accounts before they browse health overhaul insurance plans appears to have led to many frustrating glitches, independent experts say. Consumers trying to create their accounts multiplied the volume of online transactions that overwhelmed the website last week, causing long waits and exasperation.
In the local community, Corinthesus Dennis Sr. is assisting local uninsured residents through the open enrollment.
Coordinating with Mary Vinson Memorial Library Director Barry Reese, Dennis set up free health care exchange help from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday.
“We thought it would be a great thing for the community. I went around to a couple of daycares trying to get people signed up, and I noticed it was taking a long time,” Dennis said. “I talked to Barry [Reese] and said we need to get more computers. We decided to come together and use the historical room each Saturday.”
Dennis calls the marketplace “very tedious for the average person.”
Many local citizens don't have the computer experience or online email accounts to successfully complete the initial sign-up process, he said. System glitches the first two weeks add to the time required.
“People still need to learn a lot about technology. Especially in the group that comes to sign up. That's one thing that needs to be addressed,” Dennis said. “It's taking close to four hours to get through the system right now.”
Dennis completed training through healthcare.gov and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“I got approved for individual and shop criteria for small business owners,” he said.
Navigators go through six-hour classes for each certification and must pass a final test to qualify. Certified individuals must have an ID number showing they are qualified to help.
These individuals and organizations are required to be unbiased. Their services are free to consumers.
Dennis holds an insurance license through Mutual of Omaha in addition to a having the “navigator” expertise.
“I know more about insurance than the navigators. I'll be able to explain the different plans the government has out right now,” Dennis said.
The majority of uninsured individuals will be able to find coverage for $100 or less per month in the marketplace taking into account premium tax credits and Medicaid coverage, proponents say.
“I think it's going to be great. My mother was one of my first signees,” Dennis said. “I want to go out and help people like that and let them know they can come in and sign up. They don't have to be scared to go to the doctor anymore because they have a company behind them now.”
According to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services, Georgia consumers will be able to choose from an average of 50 health plans in the marketplace.
The six-month long open enrollment period runs through March 2014. Coverage begins as early as Jan. 1.
Starting in 2014 people will have to pay the penalty for not having insurance, which is $95 or 1 percent of their household income, whichever is greater.
For more information about the health care law, to apply for coverage, compare plans and enroll, visit www.healthcare.gov.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.