By COLLEEN WILSON
ANNAPOLIS (Oct. 2, 2013)—Maryland Health Connection—the statewide health insurance marketplace for families and businesses—began its first day of registration Tuesday across the state with some glitches.
An Outreach and Enrollment Tour began at the Anne Arundel County Public Library Tuesday morning. But the sign-up was slow-going and the staff met some hiccups along the way, including poor Internet connection, heavy website traffic, few walk-in insurance-seekers and the last-minute cancellation of a visiting promotional tour van.
The Maryland Health Connection provides the state with options for uninsured residents in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a law championed by President Obama in 2010.
Were a boots-on-the-ground organization, so we feel like we are most effective if were able to come face-to-face with people, said Kathleen Westcoat, chief executive officer of HealthCare Access Maryland, which had staff and certified navigators at the library to educate and discuss health care with local residents.
Melissa Cuesta, a bilingual certified navigator for the agency, said most of the people she saw Tuesday were looking for some answers.
Most of the people I have seen, they just have general questions, like if they have Medicare what they should do, do they need to drop their health insurance, its basically questions like that, she said.
Agency spokeswoman Sheila Mackertich said, Theyre trying to really focus on educating and outreaching because coverage doesnt even start till Jan. 1 . ... Even if the site was working we were going to encourage people to take their time to make decisions.
People without health insurance have until the end of the year to sign up for an insurance plan or face a fine that increases by the year.
A couple of hours into the event only a handful of people had shown to ask questions and sit down with navigators.
Well be out and the word will start to spread and the media push will begin, so we think after a couple of weeks, especially moving into November, things will start to pick up a lot more and thats what were hoping for, said William Matthews, a certified navigator and team leader for Anne Arundel County.
Westcoat says theyre dealing with a relatively small population of people, estimating that about 220,000 in the region are uninsured. It is estimated that about 80 percent of Americans already have health insurance—though that percentage varies between studies.