But since the online marketplace opened earlier this month, many in North Carolina have had trouble logging onto the site.
“When the website came online, there were a couple of people who were having a terrible time,” said John Wingerter, outreach and education coordinator for the Council on Aging of Buncombe County, which is serving as a navigator organization.
Patricia Deridder, another navigator through Mountain Projects, said she has heard of people being able to sign up early in the morning or at late at night, when she is not able to consult with them.
And Wingerter said it’s difficult to educate people in his rural area.
“It’s going to be perhaps more of a challenge to provide information to people versus a large urban area,” he said.
Jennifer Simmons, a supervising legal attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina, another navigator organization, said attempts to help people sign up have varied.
“Sometimes the website is working well,” Simmons said. “On other days, we work to do a paper application or on the phone through the federal call center.”
But Sherman said a drawback is that paper applications must be entered online.
Sorien Schmidt, state director for Enroll America, an organization that does outreach for health insurance, said despite the website’s problems, many still want information about health care options.
“Glitches have been a frustration but haven’t been stopping people,” she said.
Harrison said many people are looking for coverage for their families.
“A lot of people have coverage for themselves as employees but can’t afford the family option,” Harrison said. “For many, that’s too expensive.”
Seve Gaskin, a UNC student and project manager of Get Covered Carolina Project, which works with SHAC, UNC Family Medicine and UNC Health Care, said many people who have accessed the marketplace found they were qualified for tax credits or subsidies to offset the cost of premiums.
Some would have qualified for Medicaid — but North Carolina decided this spring not to expand the program, he said.
Wingerter said he expects the website to be fixed in the next month.
“I think it’s going to be a really, really wonderful way to help people once they get the bugs worked out,” he said.
Sherman said until the site is fixed, his organization will continue to inform people about their options in person.
“We are able to provide a lot of education about what is going on with these people about why these delays are happening and keep them encouraged,” he said.