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Despite Obamacare website glitches, counselors continue to help people enroll

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With the health care marketplace lost in internet space President Obama is calling in some specialized IT help.

The former head of the office of management and budget, Jeff Zients, was selected to clean out the bugs plaguing the Obamacare website.

Meanwhile here in Austin local non-profits are still trying to get people signed

Since the launch October 1, the online sign up process for Obamacare has been like being caught in Austin's rush hour gridlock. While non-profit volunteers try to help people navigate through the computer glitches, some who already have insurance are raising questions about why they're being told their rates are going up.

People continue to come into the Marketplace Enrollment Center at Highland Mall, operated by foundation communities. They arrive with a lot of questions but because of problems with the federal website no one has left yet with a new insurance policy.

"Well the frustration has definitely built over the, since we started on October 1," Program Director Elizabeth Colvin said.

Colvin remains upbeat, although sometimes her team of volunteer counselors have problems logging in.

Computer down time is spent helping clients complete paperwork to qualify for tax subsidies.

"I have great confidence that we will be able to enroll people in plans by December 15 so their insurance will start January 1," Colvin said


The non-profit has seen almost 800 people since enrollment began. So far only about 80 have received subsidy confirmation letters but that doesn't guarantee a low-insurance rate.


For example, Tuesday morning, a woman, who is losing her current coverage, finally got her first look at a list of policy options. She left disappointed, the prices were higher than what she's now paying. But another customer did find a plan. There was just one problem- the computer system wouldn't accept his payment to finalize the process. He'll try again later.

The original sales pitch behind this idea was to make health insurance affordable for everyone. But some who already have insurance, and will never use the marketplace, are experiencing buyer's remorse.

"I think the insurance companies are panicking," said Janet Cole.

Janet Cole's sticker shock came in the form of this notice. Her deductible is going to double to $6,000.

"I feel like I'm having to pay for the people who didn't have coverage before, which I'm all about helping my fellow Americans, citizens and all that, but I don't thing its fair, that basically what I will have to do next year is take a $3,000 a year pay cut to have the exact same coverage, that I've had this year for my family," Cole said.

Traditional insurance rate increases are being accelerated by the Affordable Care Act according to John Davidson, a health policy analyst with the conservative watch dog group, Texas Public Policy Foundation.

"Small businesses, insurance premiums are going up across the board for most groups and the groups seeing the higher increases are those with a high number of young employees, and the reason for that is the law creates winners and losers, we were told the insurance rates would go down for everybody but that's not the case, it's going down for a few people, for many others its going up," Davidson said.

The key to this funding balancing act- is enrolling healthy young adults.  People - who must have insurance under the health care act - have to have coverage by the end of March or they will have to pay a $95 fine. Compared to paying a couple of grand a year for insurance, the concern is that a lot of people will choose the penalty and continue to get their medical care at local clinics and hospitals ER's.

Applications can be taken over the phone.

Call 1-800-318-2596 to apply for a health insurance plan and enroll over the phone.

(TTY: 1-855-889-4325)

Analysis link by Texas Public Policy Foundation

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