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Signing up for Coverage Under ACA: Two Mainers' Experiences
10/01/2013   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

Among those who enrolled today in Maine's new online Marketplace were a professor in his late 30s, and a retired businesswoman. As A.J. Higgins reports, both were eager to sign up, but admitted to being a little discouraged with the shortcomings of the online application process.

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Signing up for Coverage Under ACA: Two Mainers Ex Listen

When her husband had a stroke a few years ago, Charlene Brousseau opted to join him in retirement even though her eligibility for Medicare is still several years away. After years of paying increasing health care costs through a private insurer, Brousseau says she is glad to sign up under the Affordable Care Act.

But Brousseau says she's not impressed by the paperwork. "It's very confusing," she says. "There's so much that goes into these plans that you can't just - with three or four paragraphs or lines - explain the whole plan and get through everything. And I think I have a decent handle on it. But like I said, I still am confused on a few issues."

Brousseau, of Manchester, spent much of the morning at Augusta's Consumers For Affordable Health Care office, where she was trying to submit her online application for the health insurance Marketplace. The Web site would periodically shut down or kick back her responses to questions, making the entire process more than a little frustrating - even with help from the agency's staff.

Apart from the technical issues, Brousseau says there's the question of cost. She, and others in their late 50s or early 60s, have had early retirement plans complicated by the rising costs of private health insurance. She says it's the members of this age group, many of whom have already developed pre-existing medical conditions, who are now forced to pay higher medical expenses than they would under Medicare.

She says she's not one to wish her life away, but Brousseau says sometimes, age 65 looks pretty good. "Unfortunately I'm at a place age-wise that there are days when I wish I could age real quick and get to that 65 year breakoff, because the time between 55 and 65 can be really difficult," she says.

Jesse Miller, an adjunct professor at the University of New England, also found the application process daunting. Still, as a member of the under-40 group, Miller says the insurance marketplace program is a huge advancement for younger workers in Maine -- once they get over the anxiety of familiarizing themselves with the paperwork.

"This is seemingly beyond my skill set," Miller says. "I can't seem to understand without some help - which is great. "It looks like there's an issue with the site here - who didn't think that was going to happen, right?"

Although neither Miller nor Brousseau completed their applications, Joe Ditre of Comnsumers for Affordable Health Care say both are much further along in the process as the result of working with agency staff.

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