It was hardly a flawless launch, but the Affordable Care Act health care exchanges are up and running -- albeit better in some states than others.
So now the real work begins.
Toni Cohen and Lindsay Carlson are certified application counselors -- a fancy way of saying they’ve been trained to help people sign up for health insurance. And today, they're braving the oppressive heat at a farmers' market in downtown Camden, to help get more local residents across the Obamacare finish line.
"People just stop by, people see us in the street and they go, ‘Oh, you are those girls from Project Hope, you can help us sign up,’ “ says Carlson.
Project Hope, a nonprofit clinic, is among the organizations trying to sign up Camden County's roughly 54,000 uninsured residents.
A woman in a fur-collared denim vest walks over. Toni Cohen offers her a paper application.
“Can’t you just do it on a computer?” the woman asked.
“We can, however the website is still down,” said Cohen.
"The website is still down." It's a phrase Carlson has repeated non-stop this week. “It’s difficult, it’s a little bit frustrating to tell someone, ‘oh no, I’m sorry we can’t do it that way,’ I know we’ve been saying that we can,” she said.
The two women have helped about 20 people fill out paper applications, so far. Cohen says the three-page form takes about 15 minutes.
She says the process is going okay.
“I don’t want to dismiss the paper application as a waste of time. It is the first step,” she said. “But, yes, there is paper to follow and no, it’s not as quick as online.”
The other problem, she says, is consumers can’t find out if they qualify for financial assistance, or even the price of the insurance plans.
And then comes the really tricky part.
Cohen says to seal the deal and make sure the person ultimately enrolls, she she’s got to follow up in a few weeks, after the consumer has received paperwork from the federal government.
In the meantime, Cohen and Carlson will keep staking out the farmer’s market and hope the 21st Century shows up soon.
“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VABEFORE YOU GO