Chattanooga residents struggle to enroll under 'Obamacare'
Frustrations are mounting both nationally and locally in regards to "Obamacare" and the glitches with the online process.
Around 45,000 uninsured people live in Hamilton County. Several local organizations are helping walk them through the process of enrolling for government-mandated insurance. But, a string of failures on the federal web site is making it a challenge.
The month started with enthusiasm from many of Hamilton County's uninsured-- excited to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. That enthusiasm has turned to frustration for many, though, who've hit brick walls while attempting to enroll on www.healthcare.gov.
"Some people are making it through, but it's still a real frustrating process," Chattanooga & Hamilton County Medical Society Executive Director Rae Young Bond said.
Error messages, slow response times, and trouble logging in are just some of the problems. Tuesday top government officials were grilled by GOP leaders during a congressional hearing on the site's performance.
"I want to apologize to you that the web site has not worked as well as it should," Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Marilyn Tavenner said.
In Chattanooga, several organizations are working together to offer help navigating through the confusion. They're finding many are still unsure if they're exempt or not.
"There's a lot of questions our there and we're here to assist in providing those answers for them," Enroll the Region Director Cora Lanier said.
If you are required to enroll, you can do it the old fashion way, by mailing paper forms or over the phone.
"You know we didn't always have computers so we kind of work our way around that. I know there's a lot of concern about that now," Lanier said.
But, they want to stress that you have until March to get insurance before facing penalties. Even if you do sign up today, coverage doesn't begin until January. Federal officials say the site will be fixed by mid-November.
"Now I'll be a considerably different state of profound concern if by the middle of November people really are not able to log on and access this," Rae Young Bond said.
Though some local people have successfully signed up, no numbers are available.
Again, several local organizations are working to get people informed on what to do next. They're hosting educational events and taking individual appointments. The Chattanooga & Hamilton County Medical society estimates they've talked to around 2,400 people so far.
If you're still unsure of your options, trained local helpers are stationed at the following locations in Chattanooga:
- Southside Community Health Center, 100 E. 37th St.
- Dodson Avenue Community Health Center, 1200 Dodson Ave.
- Metropolitan Ministries, 1112 McCallie Ave.(across from Warner Park)
- Chattanooga Hamilton County Medical Society, 1917 E. Third St.
- Homeless Health Care Center, 717 E. 11th St.
- Children's Urgent Care, 910 Blackford St.
- Erlanger Health System, 975 E. Third St.
- Hamilton County Health Department general information, 209-8375
The organization Enroll the Region travels to different sites throughout Chattanooga. Organizers can be reached at (423)509-1939 or by emailing Enrolltheregion.firstname.lastname@example.org.
To enroll yourself, call 1-800-318-2596 or go to www.Healthcare.gov