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Weighing in on ACA Website Overload, Penalty Details

As folks across the country continue to sign up for health insurance through the online marketplace, a slow website and other hiccups are making it tough for people to get through the process.
MONROE -- As folks across the country continue to sign up for health insurance through the online marketplace, a slow website and other hiccups are making it tough for people to get through the process.

Locally-based Vantage Health Plan officials say when the market place opened on October 1st, only a handful of people state-wide were able to complete memberships through the companies offered in Louisiana.

Officials say that's because the website - www.healthcare.gov received more traffic than it could handle.

That website is the go-to place for the new insurance marketplace, and officials say it's overloaded.

"First few days, it was just a trickle of people coming through the door, all major health insurance companies reported similar results," said Michael Echols with Affinity Health Group and Vantage Health Plan. "Because people truly couldn't get through the front door of the healthcare.gov website."

But Echols says that's no reason to abandon ship.

"Buying health insurance through the exchange is a lot like wanting to get that one commemorative Duck Dynasty t-shirt, and only one store was selling it, and it's a small store," Echols explained. "And people were lined up out the door to  buy that t-shirt. It's going to take a long time to get people through the line, checked out, and moved through for the next person to come in. That's a lot like what the health care exchange has been like -- a lot of people trying to access it  and not a lot of people having success getting through. But in time, it'll happen and everyone will get their tshirt."

Vantage, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Louisiana Health Cooperative and Humana are offering insurance plans through the Louisiana marketplace.

Meanwhile, here's the breakdown on penalties under the Afforadable Care Act if you don't sign up for insurance by March 2014.

"They're scared, that's the number one thing. The number one question is the penalty," said Jeff Holloway, an ACA health care agent and broker.

He says the penalties will come through your tax return. It's $97.50 per adult, and $47.50 per child up to three children --  or a penalty of 1 percent of your gross income. Whichever is greatest, is what you pay.

"For 2015, it will go to 2 percent, in 2016 it will go to 3 percent," said Holloway. "The whole thing is driven to make sure people get health insurance."

For instance, on a $40,000 income -- 1 percent is $400, 2 percent is 800 dollars, and 3 percent is $1,200. But Echols said if your income is below a certain amount, or if you are affiliated with certain religious groups or Native American tribes, you can be exempt from the penalty.

Insurance experts say there's no rush in finding insurance now. The ACA gives people until March 2014 to shop and apply through the marketplace. The earliest date the insurance will kick in is January 2014.

Despite memberships trickling in, Echols says the numbers are getting better every day. He suggests waiting a few weeks before using the website to shop for insurance.

"If you have the time to wait 30 to 45 minutes to get through the process or more go ahead and do that," said Echols. "if you don't have insurance needs, don't go to the website and plug it up for other people."

Echols says the website is expected to be overwhelmed again come the first few weeks of December. That's because of people trying to get their applications in by the start of 2014. If you would like insurance by the start of the next month, you must apply for it by about the 15th of the previous month.

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