Mon., December 2, 2013 4:58pm (EST)

'Healthcare Navigators' Relieved To Have A Working Website
By Claire Simms
Updated: 5 months ago

ATLANTA  —  
Karla Johnson is a licensed healthcare navigator and director of community education for the consumer advocacy group Georgia Watch.
Karla Johnson is a licensed healthcare navigator and director of community education for the consumer advocacy group Georgia Watch.
People can now enroll in health insurance on Healthcare.gov. The federal government unveiled upgrades to the site Sunday.

“You don’t get these error messages that say you’ve put in your user name incorrectly. You don’t get all these messages that say, ‘Page Cannot Be Found,’” said Karla Johnson, a licensed healthcare navigator and director of community education for the consumer advocacy group Georgia Watch. “It’s nice. It was frustrating before, but now you can actually go on.”

Johnson has been licensed to help people sign up for about two months, but had yet to enroll a single person Monday afternoon.

“Last week and the weeks before I have gotten tons of calls of people wanting to get in, but my hands were tied,” Johnson explained.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the original website contained, "hundreds of software bugs.” Technology experts have revamped the site fixing both hardware and software problems, as well as adding 24-hour monitoring. CMS admits the new Healthcare.gov is still a work in progress.

Johnson said she was put in what she called “a virtual waiting room,” around midday Monday. But she explained that feature is no different from what consumers experience when contacting their phone or cable company.

“Sometimes we call them at peak times and they’ll tell us, ‘We’re experiencing peak times,’ you know. ‘You can call us back or we can put you in a cue and we can call you back,’” said Johnson. “So this is a similar feature that I think Healthcare.gov has implemented. They’ve listened to what we’ve had to say and they’ve upped their program.”

Johnson and several other healthcare navigators from across the state will be headed to St. Mary’s United Methodist Church in Columbus Tuesday to help enroll people in the online marketplace.