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Obamacare Sign Up Under Way
CINCINNATI (Jeff Hirsh) -- There is good news and bad news about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it's come to be known.
The good news, if you believe in the program lots of Americans are interested and want to sign up.
The bad news is the web site they need to use has been plagued with problems, and does not always work.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services was in Cincinnati Wednesday to talk about that. Local 12 News reporter Jeff Hirsh was there at Cincinnati State College.
So this is a brand new day, not only for the 1.4 million folks here in Ohio but for folks across the country who have never had the health security that Medicare provides or that private employer health care provides.
Health and human service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a Cincinnati native, said she's the first to admit that healthcare.gov, the web site signup for Obamacare, got off to a rocky start.
But Sebeleus told a forum at Cincinnati State College that the system is getting better, although officials are still not satisfied. Still the message from Sebelius and from other political and health leaders was if you don't have health insurance, and some 49 million Americans do not, this is the time to sign up.
Enrollment began October 1st. But you can still sign up by December 15th to start coverage on January 1st. February 15th is the deadline to sign up without financial penalty for not having insurance, and March 31st is the final enrollment deadline for 2014.
There are no numbers yet on how many people have signed up already. But young people in the audience were told that just because you're young and healthy now does not mean you can forget about health insurance.
According to the Cincinnati Health Department, only about 5 percent of the department's clients, who are low income people, have access to a computer. So even if the web site worked perfectly it wouldn't make any difference for them. A number of social service agencies have what they call navigators who will walk people through the system and sign them up, and there's also a toll free 800 number if you have questions about signing up. They're available 24 hours a day in 150 languages, and Local 12s Jeff Hirsh is told they even speak computer-eze.
That toll-free number for help signing up for health insurance under the affordable care act is 1-800-318-2596.
The insurance is not free but government help is available for some, depending on income. If you already have Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance through work, you do not need to sign up.