Help centers still not much use with healthcare.gov - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Help centers still not much use with healthcare.gov

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The much maligned healthcare.gov website was back online Thursday after being down much of the previous two days. That's as a tech surge is underway to fix glitches so that the uninsured can enroll for government mandated health insurance -- and perhaps get a subsidy along the way.

But is the site working yet? We were there as one woman went to get some help navigating the site to shop for coverage.

Certified Application Counselor Glenda Myers with the David Raines Community Health Centers welcome Leambrial Thomas of Mansfield into her office in Bossier City to help her get enrolled for a plan.

Leambrial entered her information online to set up an account. But she hit a brick wall right away -- an error message that says her info is not valid.

"Everybody that we've tried to sign on, we get this error message like this, and we have to go in and call," Myers says.

So they got on the toll free line with CMS -- the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Leambrial talked to a real person on the phone for a few minutes.

"You said log off and log back on?" she asked the call taker.

Leambrial says she'd try again in another hour. And if she could log in she might be able to finish enrollment with someone on the phone.

"I can't say that I'm frustrated, Ms. Thomas said. "This is my first time trying it. I'm shopping around. I'm not really in a rush. I know the deadline is next year."

But the same web snag has stopped everyone who's come in to the David Raines Community Health Centers looking for help.

"We haven't had anyone that we've assisted at the center yet complete the entire process and come up with a plan yet," says Calvin Young, the center's Community Development Coordinator.

He says everything's basically on hold until the glitches are fixed on healthcare.gov -- possibly by the end of November.

Here's what else we've learned about healthcare.gov:

CGI, the contractor that built healthcare.gov, has blamed the government for the website failure. It says last minute changes from the government prevented full testing.

CNN has reported that the government pressed on with healthcare.gov to go live on October 1, despite CGI's warning a month ahead of time that the site was not ready.

The government has extended the signup period for coverage by six weeks until the end of March for Americans to avoid tax penalties.

But problems with Obamacare go well beyond the website.

CBS News reported this week that insurance companies are cancelling more than two million individual health care policies, And the network said that's "the tip of the iceberg." Those policies are being canceled because they do not meet the Affordable Care Act's minimum standards that call for coverage of things like maternity care and pediatric dental. That means millions of Americans will have to buy more expensive plans with coverage they may not need or want.

NBC News reported this week that the administration has known for three years that those cancellations would happen. According to Obamacare regulations written in 2010, "a reasonable range for the percentage of individual policies that would terminate is 40 to 67 percent."

So now President Obama is tweaking that old selling point -- "If you like your healthcare plan you can keep it." Here's what he said in Boston Wednesday:

"If you had one of these substandard plans before the Affordable Care Act became law and you really like that plan, you are able to keep it. That's what I said when I was running for office," the president claimed. "That was part of the promise we made. But ever since the law was passed, if insurers decided to downgrade or cancel these substandard plans, what we said under that law is you've got to replace them with quality, comprehensive coverage."

The administration says the individual health care insurance market is only about five percent -- or 15-million Americans. They say the Affordable Care Act allows them to shop and buy better coverage.

Meantime, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu is trying to come up with a fix. She wants action to grandfather everyone who had an existing policy from being canceled.

The Democrat is facing a tough re-election battle next year because of her vote to help pass Obamacare. And her opponents point out that Landrieu also voted along with all Senate Democrats three years ago to reject a GOP plan that would have stopped Obamacare regulations that have resulted in these canceled policies.

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