Few Line Up to Enroll for Health Insurance Through Affordable Care Act on First Day

By Senior Political Correspondent Desirée Taylor
NJ Today

It was a no-show this morning at the Jersey City Health Department where staff stood waiting to help residents sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

“We’ve only seen about a half dozen, a dozen or so in each of the three clinics where we’re currently operating, but we’ve been getting phone calls since yesterday,” said Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services Director Stacey Flanagan.

Jersey City counselors charged with signing people up had trouble finding any takers.

“I am surprised because, yes, I know for a fact that there’s a lot of people in Jersey City — over 55,000 people in Jersey City — without no health insurance,” said Zulma Lamela, Affordable Care Act counselor for the Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services.

One problem could be computer glitches on Obamacare enrollment websites.

“I think out of 40 times I’ve tried already this morning, I’ve only been able to get onto an enrollment page once,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan was trying to give us a demonstration on how to apply for coverage via the online health exchange. When it didn’t work, she called for help.

Flanagan and her team of counselors, many of whom are bilingual, want to help people navigate through these early problems. Jersey City received a $400,000 grant to hire and train 10 counselors.

“New Jersey actually is one of the exchanges that is actually funded by the federal government, which means there’s not a lot of money to promote it, so there’s not any new money to be promoting this. There’s actually only new money to actually get navigators out there to help people register, so that’s been a hindrance in the state of New Jersey. But in Jersey City, part of the desk audit and a lot of the advances that have happened here in this administration already allowed us to redeploy our internal staff to meet the needs of our residents,” Flanagan said.

Despite the computer glitches and the lackluster response so far today, counselors tell me they aren’t discouraged. They plan to be out in full force at area flu shot clinics to help as many people as possible sign up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act.