Traverse City Record-Eagle


October 14, 2013

Health plan sign-ups on the rise in Michigan

DETROIT (AP) — Amid the problems and political finger-pointing since the launch of online health care exchanges, Adnan Hammad sees progress.

The community health director at Dearborn-based nonprofit organization ACCESS said his staff has helped hundreds of people enroll in plans under the federal health care overhaul and educated thousands about the available options. That's despite technical problems that have plagued the site and frustrated consumers in Michigan and across the country since its Oct. 1 debut.

Glitches and delays persist, but they started to ease in the second week of the marketplaces — envisioned as a 21st century portal to a health care law designed to provide insurance for people who don't have access to coverage on the job. Technical problems with the overloaded website frustrated consumers for days.

The exchanges launched as the federal government partially shut down. Republican leaders had demanded that votes to reopen the government be tied to dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law and cutting federal spending.

"I'm not a politician. ... I'm just seeing it from the human side," said Hammad, whose organization is one of four in Michigan sharing $2.5 million from the federal government to help people sign up for insurance. "It is just an exciting time for us to actually see all those families and children come to our doors and leaving happy ... saying, 'Hey, I'm going to have health insurance now.'"

Hammad said things have steadily improved and ACCESS has boosted the hours of the workers dubbed "navigators" to keep up with demand.

Still, the public's overall satisfaction with the exchanges is low, according to a survey conducted from Oct. 3-7.

The AP-GfK poll released Thursday found just 7 percent of Americans saying the rollout of the health exchanges has gone well. The poll also found 40 percent of Americans said the launch of the insurance markets hasn't gone well, 20 percent said it's gone somewhat well and 30 percent didn't know what to say.

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