Navigators, insurance agents take different approach waiting for healthcare.gov

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As some of the nation's top techies scramble to fix the Affordable Care Act's health insurance website, those charged with signing people up are getting creative while they wait for healthcare.gov to work properly.

Among them here in northeast Florida, federal navigators and insurance agents are changing their game plan to help people through this.

Everyone's got their hands tied until that website is working but there are things you can do in the meantime. One thing is to talk to an insurance agent.

Angie Koury's family-owned insurance agency had been working all hours to get ready for the Oct. 1 rollout, and more than a month later, they are ready for that site to be fixed.

"It's very frustrating because we have spent a long time preparing and educating ourselves," Koury said. "We've been in seminars and webinars and conferences and spending a lot of time being ready for this."

But Koury and her agents are putting that knowledge to use. They say many people don't realize that if you don't qualify for a subsidy, you don't have to go through healthcare.gov. You can sign up for a plan through a certified agent at no additional cost.

"We sell the same plans. It's the same rates, it's the same premiums," Koury said. "Everything is exactly the same as if you went directly by yourself."

And if you do qualify for a subsidy, just as other agents across the country are doing, Koury can run the numbers for you to give you an idea of which plans might be best. And when the website is fixed, you're good to go.

Dr. Tatiana Ramirez also has to roll with the punches. She is a federal navigator in northeast Florida who, like the other local navigators, has not been able to sign anyone up.

"A lot of people feel that if they don't do it immediately, they're not going to get coverage," Ramirez said. "So they really want to get something done."

Ramirez has shifted into education mode and continues to meet with people at places like UF Health Jacksonville to answer their questions and help them with paperwork.

"I feel like every day is a new day and people are getting more positive," Ramirez said.

If you would like to go through an insurance agent, Koury said it's a good idea to make sure they are certified and can sell all 75 policies offered in the area.

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