WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – The online insurance marketplace at the heart of President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul is showing signs of trouble handling the volume of consumers on the first day of a six-month open enrollment period.
WECT reporter Justin Smith's efforts to create an account on the marketplace were unsuccessful Tuesday morning. Initially, the site displayed a message stating, "We have a lot of visitors on our site right now and we're working to make your experience here better."
After about a ten minute wait, Justin was asked to select a username and password, but hit a snag when directed to select security questions, which were not visible in two different web browsers.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said they are working to fix the problem.
It's not clear if Wilmington-area residents researching or buying insurance had access Tuesday to "navigators" – federally funded certified advisors who are employed by various non-profit groups.
Legal Aid of North Carolina is the only navigator organization that appears to have a presence in the southeastern part of the state.
The organization is making "limited appointments" with insurance seekers over the next two weeks, but its navigators won't receive state-specific training until October 9, according to spokesman Sean Driscoll.
"We need the ground to harden beneath our feet," he said.
According to the spokesman, a toll-free statewide hotline won't be live until mid October.
MedNorth Health Center, a non-profit based in downtown Wilmington, also received federal funds to assist people with enrollment in the online marketplace.
Anganette Young, the center's CEO, said its employees are still completing training and have not started offering assistance.
At least one local insurance company offered in-person assistance Tuesday.
Glitches with the federal government's website prevented Darrin Overholt of JWB Insurance from using an i-Pad to help shoppers at the Monkey Junction Wal-Mart enroll in plans as he intended, although he did provide information and answer questions.
Overholt said his company will help Wal-Mart shoppers buy plans throughout the enrollment period, at the request of Blue Cross Blue Shield - the only insurance company offering plans in the five-county region of southeastern North Carolina.
Copyright 2013 WECT. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.
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