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Online Health Insurance Exchange Launch Creates a Few Obstacles

The message now for Floridians anxious to log onto Healthcare-dot-gov is to take your time. The first three days of the online exchanges have been problematic and things are moving slowly, but enthusiasm isn't waning.

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[Hispanic Health Initiatives celebrated the opening of the online Health Insurance Marketplace]

(Reporter question)  How have you guys been entertaining yourselves?

“Oh…we’ve just been talking,  we just met,” say Navigators Liza Pierre and Ononey Hernandez. They’re at the Eatonville Public Library ready to assist people with enrolling in the federal government’s online health care exchange. But the website is still down- and they are still unlicensed, which means they can only answer questions- they can’t actually help anyone sign up. There haven’t been that many people to sign up anyway. By 1:00 on day two, they’d only had five people wander in. But Lisa Pierre says those that came in found it worth their time.

“People are feeling a little flustered, but I had a lady come in here, when she sat down and we spoke to her for actually an hour and after we spoke to her she was like this is a good thing, I don’t get why people are so upset about it, she really felt relieved after speaking with the both of us,” she says.

Pierre says the woman was relieved because people don’t understand the exchanges and are coming in the door with a lot of misinformation.  That misinformation is a big point of concern at Hispanic Health Initiatives in the next county over.  Jimmy Torres-Velez is with the Service Employees International Union.  He represents one of several Latino based organizations helping to spread the word about the exchanges.

“This is an important decision on the people’s life and we want to make sure that people take their time to make the right decision,” he says.Torres-Velez says the website doesn’t force you to select a plan immediately- there’s time to shop and compare. The group here is voicing concern. But Hispanic Health Initiatives founder Josephine Mercado says the gathering is actually a celebration that included a festively decorated cake bearing the words “We Welcome Obamacare.”.

“So it’s time for change and this is it, and I am very excited that we’re finally here. This was a fight for over 100 years, this started with Teddy Roosevelt for crying out loud,” she says.

Others may not be feeling quite so celebratory.  Some people, like Peter Willems, were so anxious to sign up for health care that they went online at midnight October 1st- only to find the website so bogged down by traffic that they couldn’t enroll. By late Monday, Willems still had not been able to get in, but he says he’s not discouraged, he’ll just keep trying. “Yeah, I have six months, I’m sure now that it’s just the beginning and there’s a lot of people rushing to it today and that’s why we have six months, so I’ll get it, ” says Willems.

And that is the message everyone is being sent home with.  There’s time.  But while the website has had seemingly high traffic, locations offering face to face help have had very low traffic. Polls show that up to 2/3 of Americans were unaware that the exchanges were opening October 1st. But Jimmy Torres-Velez says awareness will come through word of mouth.

“People are going to start talking to each other and they’re going to say hey! I just got insurance for 80-dollars a month.  Why don’t you try it?” he says.

According to Bloomberg News- The Federal Government has recorded 2.8 million visitors to but how that translates into enrollment numbers is unclear. Navigators and other workers certified to help people enroll say they have yet to hear of  someone who has made it all the way through the process.


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