Local advisors help customers wade through health care reform site

Local advisors help customers wade through health care reform site

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by BORA KIM / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @BoraKimWCNC

WCNC.com

Posted on October 22, 2013 at 7:11 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 22 at 7:19 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Experts say the public should pack some patience when dealing with computer glitches on the federal healthcare exchange.

To date, about half a million people across the country have enrolled through the marketplace.

Check out NBC Charlotte's Affordable Care Act resource page

Laci Carr of Charlotte is like many who attempted to apply online through the Healthcare.gov Web site, only to stop halfway in frustration.

“It’s a bit confusing, and for someone my age who doesn’t have dependents, you still get the run-around,” she said.

Nicole Standfield is a federally certified “Navigator,” with MedAssist in Charlotte.

Applicants who seek her assistance are encouraged to sit in front of her computer and take the “hot seat.”

She will guide applicants along and answer any questions.

The Web site she says is, “inconsistent,” at best, but she is seeing improvements to the Web site daily.

“The lucky people have been able to still fill out applications, but it has been taking an hour, or two hours. The unlucky people may have to make another appointment because they can’t get into the system at all,” she said.

Standfield says one woman she helped had never had insurance.

“It was all confusing to her. She didn’t understand what a deductible was. She didn’t understand much about plans. So, that is where I come in and educate her on the different things they are offering her,” she said.

New to the government insurance Web site, is a link with instructions on four ways of enrolling.

That includes an option to print out a paper application, which then can be mailed.

“If you really, really want to see results, come talk to us and fill out a paper application. The only thing is you have to call and verify what you would like to have,” said Stanfield.

MedAssist is a charitable pharmacy program that last year helped 10,000 low-income clients get prescription medication.

Many clients are below the federal poverty line. Under the guidelines, many won’t qualify for federal subsidies through the marketplace. 

Executive Director Lori Jiang says some, however, who don’t have Medicaid now, may qualify under the new rules and so suggests the public should see what their options are.

Still, because North Carolina is among 26 states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid, an estimated half a million North Carolinians will fall under the “insurance gap.”

Jiang advises the public to reach out to agencies like MedAssist. Volunteers and staff can connect applicants who don’t qualify with alternative medical services and resources available in their area.

If you decide to come in and speak to a counselor face-to-face, anyone can at least come prepared.

“I would recommend if they have access to a computer, they go on the Web site to HealthCare.gov and follow instructions to set up a consumer account. You will need an account because the government will need your personal identification number to communicate back with you. Our navigators will not keep that information,” she said.

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