Around Osceola

Working website means health insurance plans in Osceola

Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 4:52 pm

By Tiffanie Reynolds

Staff Writer

 Just like the status of healthcare.gov, The Health Insurance Store in Kissimmee reports nothing but rising numbers.

The store, which opened the first private HealthCare Enrollment Center in Florida in October, now has helped enroll 160 applicants since the healthcare.gov website has been cleared of bugs in late November. Combined with the efforts of their outside insurance agents, that number jumped to 560.

“I think it was, sort of in a way, nirvana, because it was so satisfying to actually go all the way through and have that paper in your hand, and send someone out of here and say ‘You will have coverage starting January first,’” said Debra Perleberg, individual health plan/marketplace manager at The Health Insurance Store.

Nationally, 2 million people across the country have been enrolled with a health insurance plan through healthcare.gov by the end of 2013. The goal for the Obama Administration is to reach 7 million by the due date of March 31.

But even as the numbers of enrollment have gone up, it has taken some time to get used to the system. With the center’s first application, it had to directly contact the health insurance company in order to make sure that the application went through. This connection with health insurance companies was the biggest issue for the company after the original Oct. 1 online insurance marketplace opening date. But, after the first few applications were successfully sent to companies, the center’s only concern is getting the word out that they are here to help.

“It was never about the website, the problem was the linkage between healthcare.gov and the insurance companies. None of that infrastructure had been built up, they just did a piecemeal. So, from our point of view, it’s been very frustrating for a month and a half to tell people that it’s broken, it’s not working, we don’t have any enrollments. That was the hard part,” said Wes Fischer, president of The Health Insurance Store.

During the month of October and half of November, the only thing that agents in the HealthCare Enrollment Center could do was help residents fill out their information and calculate a subsidy. Now, they are calling all those people back to become officially enrolled through the website.

For many that the center has helped, subsidies cut monthly health insurance costs by half, with some only paying less than $10 a month. Fischer says that between 90 and 95 percent of residents enrolling with them have received a subsidy.

The HealthCare Enrollment Center is open and free to all residents in Osceola County. It is located in The Health Insurance Store at 1007 E. Vine St.

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