Agency reports frustration, success with health insurance signups

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Kendall Downing

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Ill. - Healthcare agencies in Illinois said they're slowly enrolling people through the federal government's website.

They're using it because they have to. In the Land of Lincoln, the state and feds are in a partnership when it comes to healthcare coverage.

Illinois expanded its Medicaid coverage. If you qualify for those services, you can use a state application online. But if you don't the federal website is the alternative.

One local agency reports both success and frustration.

At Shawnee Health Service in Carterville, Community Outreach Director Nancy Muzzarelli monitors email. She's still enrolling in webinars on healthcare reform.

"I think the rollout's been very different from what most of us imagined it would be," she said, "We've spent a lot more time in training than we expected. The training's been extreme."

Muzzarelli said Shawnee's signed up about 20 people for insurance through Healthcare.gov. But they're gotten roughly 200 enrolled in the expanded Medicaid program the state's offering.

The state's benefit application site is supposed to work in step with the federal government's, directing people who don't qualify for Medicaid to the marketplace.

But technical problems prevent that right now, even though staff members at Shawnee Health are trained.

"We see more good than we see bad," said Laura Olmsted, Certified Application Counselor.

Olmsted helps people apply. She said those who qualify for expanded Medicaid are grateful, and the ones who have to rely on the federal government's website usually can't complete the process.

Shawnee Health normally reschedules their appointments at a later date.

Application counselors said when the federal website works, they've secured plans that saved people thousands of dollars.

To find out if you qualify for expanded Medicaid services in Illinois, click here.

You can contact the following Shawnee Health centers listed below:
Carbondale (618) 519-9900
Marion (618) 997-5270
Carterville (618) 985-4841
Murphysboro (618) 687-3418

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