After months spent preparing and training to help people sign up for health coverage, federally funded navigators have found themselves contending with a glitch-ridden federal marketplace website while trying to ease consumers' frustrations.
“We've been very challenged,” said Vicki Tucci, lead navigator and an attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County in West Palm Beach, Fla., which received a federal grant of $446,783 to provide navigator services in four counties. “Hundreds of people have contacted us over the past two weeks and we've had to reset appointments—sometimes more than once.”
In August, HHS awarded $67 million in navigator grant funds to 105 organizations in the 36 states where the federal government fully or partly runs the exchanges. These navigator organizations, which include community groups, healthcare providers and faith-based groups, are tasked with providing education and assistance to help people sign up for health plan coverage through the exchanges.
But since the Oct. 1 start of open enrollment, HealthCare.gov, the federal marketplace website, has been plagued by system outages, long waits and error messages. Most people have encountered big problems in creating the personal account necessary to enroll and qualify for federal premium subsidies. Some observers say while people with pre-existing medical issues are likely to persist in signing up, healthier people might be less motivated and may drop out when faced with difficulties in enrolling.