Crashes greet Hoosiers trying to shop for health insurance online

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Many Hoosiers went online to start shopping for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act Tuesday, but struggled as the government-run website kept crashing.

Melissa Marks of Brownsburg was one of many who couldn’t wait to check out her options. Marks is a single mother of three children who doesn’t have health insurance.

“We’ve had several instances this past year alone where I’ve had to take my daughter to the emergency room and, you know, I broke my ankle this summer,” she said. “We have bills that I’m having to pay monthly on, that if I would’ve had insurance we could’ve had them paid off by now.”

So, at 12:01 a.m Tuesday, Marks got on her laptop and went to www.healthcare.gov to start shopping. She kept hitting a wall after creating a username.

“And then it gets here and nothing loads up,” said Marks as she pointed to her computer screen. “I’ve tried it on Internet Explorer as well and it doesn’t work either.”

“If you can’t get in today, it’s okay,” said Heather McCabe, a social worker and assistant professor at IU’s School of Social Work.

McCabe has been teaching people how to navigate the new healthcare law. Not only is she hearing frustration, but also a lot of confusion.

Her top three takeaways should make it simple to understand.

“The first thing is, if you already have insurance, if you already have Medicare, breathe easy. You’re in good shape.”

If you don’t, like Marks, then McCabe said you should check out the online marketplace or exchange.

“People really should look at the different plans. They should look at what the co-pays are. They should look at what the premiums are. And if they need help, there are people available to help them sort through the programs,” said McCabe.

That help comes in the form of ‘navigators’–people trained by the federal government to help Americans understand the system and pick out the best coverage plan.

And finally, McCabe hopes Hoosier will relax. Even if the site continues to be overwhelmed for the first few days, people have until Dec. 15 to see coverage on Jan. 1, 2014. Open enrollment continues through March 31.

“If you’re getting frustrated, take a break. Try again tomorrow or the next day,” she said.

For Marks, it’s more excitement and curiosity that keeps her clicking.

“I just wanna get to that part and see what’s going on,” she said.

You can go over your healthcare options at www.healthcare.gov or by calling 1-800-318-2596.

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