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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Shaky Web Site Frustrates Insurance Helpers

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– Carrie Feibel, KUHF

BILINGUAL HELP IN PHILADELPHIA: By midafternoon Monday, at Latino service agency Congreso in North Philadelphia, about 50 people were signed in, the list growing, waiting to meet with Congreso’s bilingual staff.

“Actually, what you see here right now is half of what was here earlier this morning,” said Jose Rivera, Congreso’s vice president of health services.

Rivera says he’s excited they’ve been able to connect with so many people, even as Latino enrollment nationwide appears to be low. Twenty employees have become certified application counselors at Congreso, according to Rivera, in addition to their regular jobs. Counselors reported long waits getting through to the Spanish-speaking help line on Monday.

Elvia Mejia,64, is holding out hope that she’ll be able to sign up. She’s uninsured, diabetic, and has struggled to pay for medicine costing upwards of $500 a month on her own. Mejia joined family living in the United States three years ago, and while she may not be eligible for other federal health programs until she has been in the country for five years, the Affordable Care Act has no time requirement for immigrants in the country legally to be eligible for financial assistance purchasing coverage through the marketplace, if their income qualifies.

– Elana Gordon, WHYY

MINNESOTA TAKES A BREAK: MNsure, the agency that runs Minnesota’s online insurance marketplace, will take the website offline for about 48 hours starting at midnight Tuesday to perform site maintenance. It is scheduled to come back up on Thursday morning. The contact center will remain open.

The troubled exchange had braced for high volume Monday and procrastinators didn’t disappoint them, as the call center fielded a record 16,000 calls.

The website slowed, but it did not buckle as it did Dec. 31, the last big deadline for enrolling in coverage. On that day, frustrated Minnesotan overwhelmed the call center.

But Monday’s rush showed that the MNsure website has improved.

“We’ve added additional capacity for the surge to the site to ensure that people are able to get in and that the system itself can handle additional volume,” interim CEO Scott Leitz said. “Beyond that, we’re monitoring by the minute the stability of the site and where things are at.”

Following an independent consultant’s advice, MNsure  also added 100 representatives to its call center.

Counties have a separate access point to MNsure called a worker portal, which they use to review applications to government programs such as Medical Assistance.

Linda Bixby, economic support division manager for Washington County Community Services, said county workers still can’t make the most basic changes to a person’s case. For example, they cannot change an address or close a case for someone who has found a job that provides health insurance. “I personally have serious concerns about the functionality,” she said.

Tue, Apr 1 2014

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