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Glitches Slow Arkansas Enrollment in Affordable Care Act

Healthcare.gov is working to improve online enrollment in the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, but local guides say they haven't seen a noticeable improvement.
Northwest Arkansas - Healthcare.gov is working to improve online enrollment in the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, but local guides say they haven't seen a noticeable improvement.

The online portal shut down over the weekend while crews installed upgrades to increase capacity, but In Person Assisters with the Economic Opportunity Agency of Washington County say the site is still moving at a snail's pace.

"We were hoping the capacity issues would be worked out a little bit more by now," says IPA Guide Program Manager Aaron Randall. "They haven't, so we've been doing a lot of paper applications... and just letting everybody know that we're still here to help."

The EOA has been meeting with people, but most of the scheduled appointments are being shifted to next week.

The Community Clinic has received numerous telephone calls requesting more information on coverage options.

"They're really inquisitive about what they qualify for, very curious of what process they need to go through," says Tyler Clark, the Community Clinic's Development Manager. "The telephone is equally as challenging, I think. When you're dealing with something as personal as insurance, and providing your personal information, you want to do it usually in person."

The Clinic has been preparing for the ACA for three years, but state legislators didn't finalize the Arkansas plan until the end of this April, and Northwest Arkansas has only 3 licensed IPA's.

"The Arkansas Insurance Department has not had as much time to train around the state as they'd like," Clark says. "I think when the In Person Assistors, the 500 in the state, actually become completely trained and completely certified and licened, we will see a huge influx of people who are enrolling."

The groups are looking at the slow start as a chance to continue educating the public.

"We're asking the public to take this as an opportunity instead of a challenge," Randall says. "They can go and get more information from us or the internet...to learn more about what's out there."

Randall says even though enrollment is slow, the websites have plenty of resources to help people prepare. Visit arhealthconnector.org or healthcare.gov for more information.

"Nobody's really angry about the system being down so far," Randall says. "If it's still this way in a month or so, it may be a little different story."
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