published Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

HealthCare.gov far better, but still a mess for some, say local navigators

This Nov. 29, 2013, file photo shows part of the HealthCare.gov website.
This Nov. 29, 2013, file photo shows part of the HealthCare.gov website.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Local and national coverage

Chattanooga-area navigators and brokers say they are finally gaining traction on HealthCare.gov — with some navigators being able to walk consumers through the entire signup process for the first time in the two months since the site was launched.

Nancy Ridge, a navigator with the Medical Foundation of Chattanooga, said she gauges the site is showing “75 percent improvement” from where it was Oct. 1.

“We are able to finally able to help people start shopping,” said Ridge.

She has noticed steady progress since last week, but said the site’s performance is still not completely reliable.

The foundation was not able to sign up people during some of the site’s “peak hours” between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., when glitches are most prominent.

But that’s far better than the site’s performance two months ago, Ridge said.

David Yoder, vice president of American Exchange, a Chattanooga-based company specializing in the new federal marketplace, said the site works well for those with new accounts on the site — but still performs poorly for those trying to shop with accounts created over the past two months.

“It’s still a horrible mess for anyone that created an account older than a few days,” Yoder said.

For those dealing with such issues, Yoder recommended users log-in and “remove” the old application, effectively starting the process over.

In North Georgia, the group leading navigator efforts celebrated a key victory Tuesday after shepherding their first client through the full signup process.

“It’s very exciting for us,” said Amy Buffington, who supervises outreach efforts for the Primary Care Center in Walker, Dade and Catoosa counties.

Until the end of last month, Buffington and her colleagues relied on paper applications for the enrollment process.

“We are hopefully going to be done with that,” she said.

With the website fixes has come a resurgence in interest, as more people scurry to get signed up by the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline to obtain coverage that kicks in Jan. 1.

“The past two days it has been popping,” Ridge said Tuesday, after working with seven people by midafternoon.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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