Figuring out how to shop around on health exchanges

News outlets report on the efforts by states, navigators, organizations and others to help uninsured people find their way through the challenges of applying for health insurance on the new online marketplaces. In places ranging from Florida, Ohio and California to Pennsylvania, New York and Minnesota, there was a buzz surrounding outreach efforts, and sometimes frustration on the part of consumers attempting to find out about coverage.

The New York Times: For Many, Personal Service Is More Helpful Than Web Site
By 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, Mr. Flynn said he had tried to enter preliminary login information on ( but was unable to submit it, apparently because of the volume of requests that the site was receiving from around the country. But working with Kyle Rouse, a "navigator" with the Health Federation of Philadelphia who was tasked with helping consumers, Mr. Flynn discovered that he would face maximum out-of-pocket expenses of $6,250 if he enrolled in a "bronze" level plan in the new marketplace. That would be significantly lower than the $10,000 he currently faces, in the first sign that the marketplace could offer him a better deal than the old system (Hudle, 10/1).

NPR: In Florida, Insurer And Nonprofits Work On Enrollment
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and other Republican leaders have worked to block the Affordable Care Act since it was first proposed. As Tuesday's opening of enrollment approached, Florida's Health Department said it wouldn't allow navigators and others to use its offices to educate and counsel people on the new law (Allen, 10/1).

The Washington Post: Computer Glitches Prevent Health Insurance Enrollment For D.C. Family
After going six months without health insurance, Mohammad Goni walked into Mary's Center in Petworth ready to enroll his family for benefits on the opening day of health insurance exchanges under Obamacare. Goni took the day off from his work as a pizza cook, prepared to fill out applications and navigate bureaucracy at the federally funded health center with his wife, Razia, and their 10-month-old and 21-month-old children in tow (Bui, 10/1).

The Washington Post: As Obamacare Starts, Patients In Maryland Community Clinics Are Eager To Sign Up
The day Maryland's health insurance exchange opened for business was Rebecca Wener's first day of work. She sat down next to Maria Martinez on Tuesday in the waiting room of a Silver Spring clinic and started gently asking questions in Spanish. Do you have health insurance? Wener asked. No, replied Martinez, 44, of Rockville. She works two part-time jobs -; in customer service at Balducci's, a gourmet food store, and cleaning houses. Do you know that many new options are available to you under health reform? No, Martinez said. She knew that a law had been passed and that everyone had to have insurance, but not much more than that (Sun, 10/1).

The New York Times: Health Care Coverage Business Is Bustling At New York City Hospital
Ms. Munoz, a community relations manager, was helping to staff an informational booth outside the hospital on Tuesday as part of Montefiore's extensive efforts at helping patients and other community members enroll in insurance under the new health care law (Thomas, 10/1).

The New York Times: In Ohio, Little Help For Consumers In Navigating Enrollment
The federally run health insurance exchange opened in Ohio on Tuesday, but the state had no certified "navigators" to help consumers find insurance plans on the first day of the Affordable Care Act marketplace. In addition to federal authorization and training, navigators here must also get approved by the Ohio Department of Insurance, the state regulatory agency that is monitoring the exchange. Chris Brock, a spokesman for the state insurance agency, confirmed Tuesday morning that none of the state's navigator grant recipients, which received a total of more than $3 million to implement outreach programs and assist people through the sign up process, had been authorized by the state to fully begin their work (Yaccino, 10/1).

Los Angeles Time: Team Takes Health care Plan To Ethnic Areas
As political forces collide in the nation's capital over the Affordable Health Care Act, a small army of workers fans across Southern California, going door-to-door and store-to-store in communities where some residents are so isolated that they know little about the healthcare reform or even how to plan for its arrival (Do, 10/1).

Los Angeles Times: Health Providers Fielding Few Questions On First Day For Obamacare
For all the fuss over Obamacare -- the president's plan to extend health coverage to about 30 million Americans -- Southern California health providers were fielding only a smattering of questions on Tuesday, the first day of enrollment. Officials at Covered California, the agency overseeing the state's health insurance exchange, have a goal of signing up more than 2 million people through next year, the most of any state (White, 10/1).

Los Angeles Times: In California, Some With Big Needs Have High Hopes For Obamacare
Health care coverage is an issue that weighs heavily on Alfred Luevano's family. Luevano, 35, of Boyle Heights came to the Healthcare Partners Medical Clinic on Atlantic Boulevard in Monterey Park for a medical checkup, but also wanted answers about Obamacare. The federal healthcare overhaul, after years of debate, officially opened enrollment on Tuesday in state health insurance exchanges, with California looking to play a lead role (White, 10/1).

The New York Times: Employees Without Health Care Coverage Looking To Exchanges
Ms. Graham was among a group of curious people at the Aurora Public Library, outside Denver, who stopped by a table set up by the Aurora Mental Health Center. It had stationed experts -; known as "navigators" -; there to tell people about the new health care coverage options available under the law. Ms. Graham said she had never heard anything about the exchange before walking into the library on Tuesday and she planned on checking with her employer to see if she was eligible (Frosch, 10/1).

Kaiser Health News: Obamacare Day One: A Tale Of Two States
"Keep calm and go live." Those were the words on the backs of the t-shirts worn by workers at a bustling state health insurance call center in Rancho Cordova, California yesterday. But if the t-shirts urged calm, the mood was ecstatic and emotional among the architects and key backers who gathered to flip the switch on the Golden State's new insurance marketplace (Gold and Varney, 10/2).

Politico: Virginia Health Fair Unfazed By Obamacare Problems
The glitches and computer problems on Day One of Obamacare signup didn't faze Gaylene Kanoyton. She anticipated them -; so much so that she had already planned a second enrollment fair for Saturday in this Virginia town. "I expected it today," Kanoyton said of the glitches. "I think it was more important that people actually come out and see what the process is, talk to someone face to face about the facts and see what their options are." Kanoyton of Healthcare Marketing Outreach organized the signup event at a community sports center here. Certified application counselors like Sylvia Whitaker had hoped to get people enrolled in health coverage. Instead counselors sent people home clutching colorful bags loaded with health care information -; and assurances that the health insurance exchange website will work, eventually (Cunningham, 10/1).

Kaiser Health News: Language, Knowledge Are Barriers For Immigrants Seeking Insurance In California
Carrying Spanish-language brochures, outreach worker Sandra Pena walked around a crowded health clinic here early Tuesday morning. 'Have you heard of the program Obamacare?' Pena asked a group of patients. A few nodded. Others stared blankly. As enrollment began around the nation, the scene at this Wesley Health Center underscored one of the major challenges facing officials – overcoming the lack of awareness (Gorman, 10/1).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Glitches, Shutdown Complicate Obamacare Exchange In State
The lack of information about the problems frustrated organizations that plan to help people through the complex process of signing up for coverage. "We have gotten zero communication from (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)," said Sarah Bailey, a spokeswoman for Progressive Community Health Centers in Milwaukee of the federal agency overseeing the launch. Progressive, which operates two clinics in Milwaukee, had 27 patients scheduled to meet with three application counselors. An additional 24 people also asked for help. "We were not able to help anyone," Bailey said. The community health center has appointments scheduled for Wednesday and for the next several weeks. "We could be having these issues tomorrow," Bailey said, "and we don't know how to gauge that" (Boulton and Stein, 10/1).

Miami Herald: Obamacare Insurance Exchange Off To Rocky Start
George Sauvigné, a 61-year-old real estate agent from Miami Shores, waited almost three years for Tuesday to arrive -; the day when government officials would unveil the centerpiece of the healthcare reform law known as the Affordable Care Act: online exchanges offering subsidized health insurance plans in every state (Armas, Green and Chang, 10/1).

The Baltimore Sun: Obamacare Rolls Out Anyway – Even In Western Maryland
It's a beautiful thing: Thousands of people in Western Maryland -; that cradle of rural conservatism and fed-up secessionists who want to declare their independence as the country's 51st state -; are now eligible for affordable health insurance under Obamacare. And 100 trained and certified Obamacare specialists are standing by at numerous locations in the five Western Maryland counties to help them enroll (Rodricks, 10/2).

The Texas Tribune: Marketplace Launches With High Expectations, Hiccups
Down in South Texas, health care providers are reporting an unusual problem with the federal marketplace: Many patients don't have email addresses and, therefore, can't sign up online. The Brownsville Community Health Center had 50 people show up on Tuesday ready to sign up for health coverage -; many even brought pay stubs and income documentation -; but not a single one of them had an email address (Aaronson, 10/1).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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