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On Health Care Deadline, Signups Pour In

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Monday is the last day for for people to get health coverage on HealthCare.gov and state exchanges.
Jon Elswick/AP
Monday is the last day for for people to get health coverage on HealthCare.gov and state exchanges.

Today is the deadline for open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, but getting people signed up on Maryland's Eastern Shore has proved difficult.

Kat Gunby sits in her Snow Hill office and watches the blinking blips on her computer screen. She’s admittedly stressed and tired because the deadline for healthcare is here and she is also six months pregnant.

“We've been just as frustrated as everyone else with the system problems," Gunby says.

Each blip signifies a caller that’s being helped by one of the lower shore health insurance assistance program’s “health navigators." She says the number of blips on her screen have been growing.

“We've probably have had about 200 appointments scheduled with our staff of about 15 certified navigators and assisters for the last week of insurance enrollment," she says.

She says getting people signed up in a rural area is a challenge in itself — there’s not a lot of public transportation, there’s a large elderly population, and she says a surprising number of people without internet access, so her team have been making house calls all over the shore.

"There’s been such a high learning curve with insurance in general; most of the people who have insurance don't understand basic terminology or the elements of their plans," she says.

Gunby says that while the troubled websites and never ending phone queues have gotten all the negative press, educating people on what they are actually purchasing has been just as time consuming.

But despite the geographic struggles, one of the Affordable Care Act’s most targeted demographic — young people — have signed up on the shore.

“More than a quarter of the people this program enrolled were in the the 18-34 age group, which was very interesting,” Gunby says.

Gunby says the coming months will be focused on the continuing enrollment for folks eligible for Medicaid, which she says makes up about 40 percent of the 23,000 uninsured folks on the lower shore.

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