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Health, Science & Tech

The Exchange is Open ... Now What?

On Thursday afternoon, Carla Bailey was unsuccessfully trying to get customers’ attention at the Rite Aid on Smithfield Street downtown.

Bailey, a supplemental insurance agent, was working for Green Cross Insurance, a new brokerage firm setting up in Rite Aid stores to disperse information about the health exchanges. Bailey is working in stores throughout the region, and on Wednesday she had been in McKees Rocks, where one person signed up to learn more about the Affordable Care Act.

Bailey’s job is to let people know about the health insurance plans they can purchase through the health exchange, the health insurance marketplace where people can compare and contrast different coverage plans. The federal government is running Pennsylvania’s exchange.

Since the exchange launched on Oct. 1, there have been many glitches and reports of people being unable to register. Bailey said she has tried to log on several times but has received different error messages. Although her laptop was on, she said she didn’t want to try to sign people up for fear of giving them “false hope.”

“All I can do right now is to give them information in terms of letting them know what rates are available, I’m unable to do that at the moment because I’m unable to get to the site,” she said.

She had a sheet to take down names and said she would then follow up later.

Bailey, 54, had tried logging on to buy herself insurance. An independent contractor, she doesn’t get coverage through her job and six months ago stopped paying for coverage because her premiums were too high.

She got as far as setting up her security question and then got an error screen. She then tried doing the chat and there was a wait for that as well. The wait would have been about 20 minutes, she said.

“I just figured I would just try later,” Bailey said.

She isn’t worried, she said, she has a few months to buy her plan and she is confident the glitches will get figured out.

On Wednesday afternoon, she wasn’t having much luck dispersing information. The Rite Aid was busy, but most people were in a hurry and quickly walked by her table with pamphlets.

Its unknown how many people, if any have signed up for health insurance in Pennsylvania. Different clinics such as the Squirrel Hill Health Center and the East Liberty Family Health Center said counselors and navigators, people who are helping sign people up for the exchange, were still doing outreach and also mentioned the computer glitches. 

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