The problems with healthcare.gov have compressed the actual period for shopping for and buying policies on the new Health Insurance Marketplace.
Local Navigators, paid by the federal government to help people get started on the shopping website, spent most of October and early November making presentations at libraries and community groups. Like the rest of the public, they couldn’t get through to the shopping portion of healthcare.gov.
In the first six weeks, the Navigators with The Cooperative Ministry assisted only 85 consumers on the website. But the website is working better now, and the floodgates have opened.
If you need help signing up to shop on the website, call one of the Navigator groups in the area – The Cooperative Ministry (803) 799-3853, Greater Columbia Community Relations Council (803) 733-1129, S.C. Progressive Network (803) 445-1921 and the Benefit Bank of S.C. (800) 726-8774.
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To handle increased traffic, The Cooperative Ministry plans to open its office at 3821 West Beltine Blvd., in Columbia on weekends in early December, in addition to its normal weekday schedule. That means the Navigators will be at work 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 7-8 and Dec. 14-15.
People who commit to policies those weekends should be covered starting Jan. 1. Under the Affordable Care Act, most people will be required to have health insurance in 2014 or face a penalty. But because South Carolina turned down Medicaid expansion, people making less than about $14,500 are exempt from the penalty.