Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

April 1, 2014

Advocates make final enrollment push

LANSING (AP) — Advocates and insurers are experiencing a surge of inquiries across Michigan as the deadline approaches to sign up for insurance under the federal health care law.

People who started an application by midnight Eastern Daylight Time on Monday could enroll for this year in the insurance exchanges created under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Enroll Michigan marketing coordinator Kelsey Maccombs said the group has received “a flood of calls.”

“We’re seeing still just a spike in amount of people coming in looking for information, resources, wanting to know what they need to do before tonight’s deadline,” said Erin Knott, Michigan director for Enroll America.

The federal health insurance website, which had a problem-plagued launch, also experienced some outages on the last day, but U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials attributed to a software bug unrelated to application volume.

“We’ve heard of a couple instances where (people being unable to access the website) was the case, but upon reloading or opening in a different browser, it hasn’t been an issue,” Maccombs said.

Telephone wait times were less than 2 minutes Monday morning for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, but officials there expected that to increase to 10 minutes this evening after people get home from work. The insurer has 400 agents taking calls in the state and most of them will work until midnight, according to Terry Burke, vice president of individual markets.

In-person enrollment events are also scheduled across the state, including at the Detroit Fire Department, Flint City Hall and Planned Parenthood in Detroit. Demand for one-on-one assistance has “quadrupled in the last month,” said Dani Vilella, Planned Parenthood field organizer for West Michigan.

“We take a lot of pride in that people are getting covered, are getting the help they need. But at the same time, it’s stressful that it’s coming down to the last minute,” Maccombs said.

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