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Charlotte-area consumers still not getting through to buy insurance at online exchange

CHARLOTTE Charlotte-area insurance agents and navigators trained to help consumers with the Affordable Care Act said Monday they have yet to help anyone buy insurance through the federal government’s online exchange.

The website, www.healthcare.gov, hasn’t worked properly since Oct. 1, the first day of enrollment, when millions of people across the country tried to submit applications and compare insurance policies.

Navigators with Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont and NC MedAssist have helped consumers complete applications, both online and on paper. But they haven’t gotten far enough into the website to compare insurance plans or find out if individuals qualify for income-based premium subsidies from the federal government.

“We’re making progress,” said Madison Hardee, a lawyer with Legal Services. “So far we have not made it to the plan-selection phase, but we have been able to successfully complete the applications, which is a major step.

“I don’t know of anyone in Mecklenburg County that is able to compare their plan options yet,” Hardee said. “That doesn’t mean they haven’t, but I haven’t heard of them.”

She said navigators in other parts of the state have reported getting to that stage. And some have reported having more success with the toll-free hotline, said Lori Giang, executive director of MedAssist.

“We’re doing the best we can to answer questions for the consumer,” Giang said. “We are being very patient because we feel like there will be many opportunities out there for people to get insurance. The steps are taking a little longer, but we are helping people through those steps.”

Chris Blount, an agent with Piedmont Benefits Group, said his agency hasn’t yet enrolled anyone through the exchange either. “We have tried multiple times but have had problems with logins, identity verification, people getting told they are Medicaid eligible when they are not – just about every error you can think of.”

As a broker, he said he’d like to know if he’ll be compensated before taking time to help someone with the process.

“The last time I was in Healthcare.gov, it let us put in our agent code, but then the next screen said, ‘It looks like you are doing this application without assistance.’ This makes agents very skeptical about spending hours with people and possibly not getting paid.”

To schedule a free face-to-face appointment with a navigator anywhere in North Carolina, call toll-free 1-855-733-3711.

To contact the federal exchange, call 1-800-318-2596.

Garloch: 704-358-5078
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