Questions raised as health insurance exchanges open

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Affordable Care Act's healthcare exchanges opened on October 1st, and with the opening came a lot of questions from those hoping to purchase health insurance through the exchanges.

Many people were waiting for Tuesday to come -- so much so that it appears the volume of people trying to get to the Affordable Care Act's marketplace website crashed the system. However, that didn't stop people from trying, and seeking answers about their needs.

By the time FOX6 News met with Gwen Altheimer around 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, she had already taken about 30 calls from people seeking information about the healthcare insurance exchanges.

"I`m getting a lot of calls from people who are over 50, who are no longer working, but not able to get Medicare or Medicaid yet and so they`re looking for some type of insurance," Altheimer said.

Altheimer is the manager of the Milwaukee Health Department's Community Healthcare Access Program -- a program that was already in existence long before the Affordable Care Act, with counselors trained to help people get health coverage. Extending it to the healthcare insurance exchanges was a logical fit.

"Our staff has trained and found to be knowledgeable based on their examination to be certified application counselors, so when we assist people we`re assisting them from a knowledge base," Altheimer said.

The Milwaukee Health Department has three locations: Southside Health Center, Keenan Health Center and Northwest Health Center -- but there are other places offering help and more will open up as more people are trained.

The 211 call center was busy filtering calls to come of these locations -- receiving more than 100 calls about the exchanges by mid-day.

"I would see if there is any resources in their area where they can go in and apply, where they have people who will sit down with them and go through it with them," a 211 call center employee said.

Unfortunately, the people who called and the people who came to the centers weren't able to get onto the healthcare marketplace because of a computer glitch.

"Everyone doesn`t need to apply today. You still have time and like anything, a computer system can get over loaded, so be patient," Altheimer said.

Certified counselors will be available at the Central Library Wednesday, October 2nd and every Wednesday between 3:00 and 5:45 p.m.

You have until December 15th to make your selection and pay your premium and still get coverage on January 1st.

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