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Despite Glitches, Hundreds At Texas Hospitals To Sign Up On Healthcare.gov

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jack Fink
Jack moved to Dallas after three years at WESH-TV, the NBC affil...
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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – A glitch kept Nina Tillmon of Grand Prairie from completing the process to sign up for insurance on the government’s website healthcare.gov. But she says she’s not too concerned. “No, I’m not worried. I’m signed up and in before the deadline, so I’m good.”

Tillmon says she was told someone from the federal healthcare exchange would call her at a later date to fully enroll and comply with the Affordable Care Act.

The website went out of service for about four hours Monday morning until a software bug could be repaired. A smaller problem kept some people from applying during the afternoon, but was resolved.

Tillmon was one of hundreds of people who waited until the last minute to go to Parkland Hospital in Dallas Monday, where counselors helped people sign-up before the deadline.

Marian Morrow, patient financial services manager at Parkland said the lines have been long at the location for two weeks now, and they’ve become experienced when technical hiccups kick clients off healthcare.gov. “It’s a hit or miss situation,” she said. “You have to keep getting back on. You get on a server that is able to bring you onto healthcare.gov.”

On Monday, the line of people waiting to sign up for insurance on healthcare.gov went out the door and into the hallway at Parkland. Between 6am and 10am, counselors had already helped 116 people meet the federal deadline to sign-up.

They’re expecting to help 500 in person by 9pm Monday night despite technical problems that kept people from applying.

Morrow said since Parkland started signing people up October 1, workers have helped nearly 14,000 people. Monday was their busiest day so far.

“I think this is going to top October 1st actually, and I believe people like to wait until the last minute.”

At JPS Hospital in Fort Worth, counselors expected to help 1100 people in person and by phone enroll on healthcare.gov.

In all, the government says healthcare.gov experienced record volume Monday, with 1.2 million visits by Noon.

Like many, Tillmon admits she didn’t try to sign-up at home, and instead wanted to go to the hospital. “In case, I ran into problems or I had questions, somebody could be here to help answer questions.”

John Goodman the President of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis.

Goodman, a healthcare policy expert, called the Affordable Care Act flawed after it became law four years ago. He says one main aspect that’s poorly designed is having people enroll online. “Just going on your own to a website, a lot of people don’t feel comfortable with that. They don’t feel like they know enough to make intelligent decisions, and I think that’s why they’re holding back.”

Tillmon is among the Texans who are uninsured. She says she heard from two friends who told her they’re each paying $20 each month for coverage. “So that’s what I’m looking for: something that I can afford.”

Texas has the highest number of people without health insurance in the nation.

Even so, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) data shows that only 295,025 Texans enrolled on healthcare.gov between October 1, 2013 and March 1, 2014. Records show 82-percent received some kind of taxpayer subsidy, 18-perent did not.

There’s no word how many Texans paid their premiums and actually have coverage.

Experts have said the success of the Affordable Care Act depends on a high number of younger, healthier people to buy health insurance to help pay for those who are older and in poorer health.

But statistics from CMS show that’s not happening yet.

According to CMS, here is the demographic breakdown of those who’ve enrolled between October 1, 2013 and March 1, 2014:

  • Younger than 18: seven-percent
  • 18 to 25 years old: 11-percent
  • 26 to 34 years old: 16-percent
  • 35 to 44 years old: 17-percent
  • 45 to 54 years old: 22-percent
  • 55 to 64 years old: 26-percent

Goodman believes because of all of the problems with the health reform law, the public will demand changes after the mid-term elections this November. “I think Democrats as well as Republicans will want to change what we have. The question is how radical will that change be?”

While Republicans, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, have clamored to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Goodman says it’s too late for that. He says while the law may be repealed, the federal contracts, entities, and healthcare exchanges that have all been created, won’t be going away anytime soon. He says there would have to be a major transition within the current system.

According to Goodman, the National Center for Policy Analysis is now working with various Republican lawmakers who are also physicians, including U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess/R-Lewisville, to develop alternatives in the individual health insurance market.

Follow Jack on Twitter:  @cbs11jack

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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