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Obamacare in NH, Day 1: On the bumpy side
"We are here today to send an important message to uninsured Granite Staters. Get ready to get covered," said Jennifer Frizzell, senior policy advisor with Planned Parenthood of New England, at a news conference in Manchester hosted by a coalition of health-care organizations that will use a $5.2 million federal grant over the next 10 months to increase awareness and provide enrollment assistance.
Lisa Kaplan Howe, policy director for New Hampshire Voices for Health, tested the marketplace for a first-hand experience.
"I've had a hard time registering on the website (healthcare.gov) because of the large demand and interest," she said. "We've also heard that the wait time at the call center (800-318-2596) is 30 minutes."
"From the messages I've seen, they are experiencing extremely high traffic, which can be frustrating for consumers, but it's a great sign that there is significant interest," she said. "We are telling people they've got time. It's great that people want to shop immediately, but don't get overly concerned if you don't get through today."
"Obamacare's failure to launch was as predictable as it was thorough," he said. "This hurried, incompetent job of trying to implement a badly flawed law clearly demonstrates why the federal government should not be in charge of our health-care decisions."
Frizzell, addressing the group of reporters and representatives of health-care organizations, said the effort should not be judged on its first 24 hours. "This enrollment process is a marathon, not a sprint," she said. "We are at the starting line."
In order for coverage to take effect on Jan. 1, enrollment must be completed by Dec. 31, although enrollment for 2014 continues until March 31.
"As with any new effort, there will be challenges along the way and issues that need to be addressed," said Gov. Maggie Hassan. "Today is only the beginning of an ongoing process to strengthen health coverage in New Hampshire. Despite misguided and unnecessary obstacles put in place on the state level, we must continue working constructively and partnering with the federal government to improve the marketplace and foster competition that will bring more choices and lower costs."
The monthly premium for the least expensive "bronze" plan covering a single non-smoker on the exchange with a $5,750 deductible is $177 for a 21-year-old, $227 for a 40-year-old and $482 for a 60-year-old.
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