A local health group is helping ease the pain of signing up for healthcare, and hundreds of East Tennessee residents are jumping on board. One week ago, people were scrambling to meet the deadline to sign up for healthcare through the website www.healthcare.gov, but the system had glitches that made it difficult to use the website.
Cherokee Health Systems held an event the day of the deadline to help people sign up. They created an event looking to help people figure out what they need in healthcare, but the glitches the website was seeing on March 31st made that difficult. Now, after a few set backs, they are back on course.
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Before the healthcare enrollment deadline, they helped more than 1,500 people sign up. Then came the deadline and a rush of more than 300 people were looking to enroll before the clock struck midnight.
"When I first signed up, everything was down that day. The computers were down. So everybody just gave everybody an appointment to come back," said newly retired Keith Hill.
Fresh into retirement, Hill said he received help signing up for the Affordable Care Act thanks to his healthcare counselor.
"I think everything that has come up has been anticipated. I knew that the last day would be chaotic and I am not surprised we have a deadline. So for now, we will take one day at a time," said counselor Naana Bediako.
She and other counselors took names and worked past the original March deadline.
The government granted an extension to people who struggled to sign up.
Now those same counselors are working against a mid-April deadline.
"We still have a lot of people who didn't even show up here who tried to sign up and said it wouldn't go through. And since we have our doors open to everybody in the community, technically I would say we have more people than the list says. But we are trying very hard," said Bediako.
Cherokee spends about an hour with each person, but people we spoke with say the process is faster and runs more smoothly than they expected.
"It's a good system; everything runs smoothly. You get all your paper work and everything runs clockwise," said Hill.
They are accepting anybody who needs help at Cherokee. The priority is on the people who signed up on the day of the deadline.
There is about another week until the extension is over.