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Oklahoma State House

October 29, 2013

Legal Aid official explains role of navigators in Obamacare

(Continued)

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — Seeking assistance

Obamacare set up a series of online insurance markets, which are supposed to be the gateway to cover for people who do not have health insurance through their jobs, the Associated Press reported Monday. The law offers middle-class people a choice of private insurance plans and provides subsidies for eligible consumers.

Low-income people will be steered to Medicaid in states that decide to expand that safety-net program.

Machell said some Legal Aid offices, including the one in Ada, did not field many requests for assistance in the first couple of weeks following the launch. She said other offices were flooded with questions from people, many of whom wanted to know if Legal Aid could assist them.

“There were a lot of people who called and wanted to know if we could help, and they said they’d call back and make an appointment,” she said.

Over the past two weeks, Legal Aid’s navigators have reported only 30 cases so far in which people needed help enrolling in a health care plan, Machell said. She predicted that more people would seek assistance when they become familiar with Obamacare.

Glitches

The federal government launched its health care website, healthcare.gov, on Oct. 1. The rollout was plagued by dozens of technical glitches, prompting a round of finger-pointing in Washington, D.C.

Machell said the federal government has assured navigators that the problems will be fixed as soon as possible.

“We’re just holding our breath and hoping within a couple of weeks, the system is going strong,” she said.

Under Obamacare, consumers must enroll in a health insurance plan by Dec. 15 if they want coverage by Jan. 1.  In light of the botched rollout, some lawmakers are urging the Obama administration to extend the deadline until March 31.

Despite the delays, many Oklahomans  who have turned to Legal Aid for assistance are excited about signing up for affordable health insurance, Machell said.

“The ones who can get through are thrilled,” she said. “The other ones have guarded optimism.”

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Oklahoma State House