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Few sign up for new healthcare program, officials hope for growth


Only 3 percent of people in McLennan County who are qualified for the health insurance marketplace have submitted an application. That's according to a local team, called Enroll America, who are looking to educate people about the Affordable Care Act.

McLennan County is one of the largest counties in the state were people are uninsured for health coverage. Enroll America and local health services at Hillcrest Hospital and Providence Hospital are doing everything they can to educate people about the new Affordable Care Act.

But so far only 1,500 of the 50,000 qualified have submitted an application since the program began in October. Health officials and enrollment educators say that's because most people are curious about the program and are not ready to commit just yet.

"They are shopping around, they want to learn more about it, see if it fits their family needs," Kelly McDonald Enroll America Waco Organizer said.

Enrollment educators say the recent backlash in Washington over the health care website also hasn't helped the cause either.

"With all the partisan noise going on...it's been difficult for them to actually find out 'hey, what is this? And is it for me?," McDonald said. "It's an opportunity for them to come and learn more, and know where to go for the next steps."

Health officials say despite the problems with the website, people have been able to sign up though a paper application and can also sign up over the phone or by mail.

The Hillcrest Family Health Center is just one of many places in Waco for people to sign up. Officials say the more their 24 counselors become familiar with the applications, the faster the process has gotten.

"I think as we go through this we will get better at it, the process will smooth out," Hillcrest Chief Compliance Officer Bob Brace said. "I think anybody coming in, what might have taken two or three hours in the first days might narrow down to less than an hour."

Progress like this has enrollment educators optimistic about future enrollment numbers.

"It's like when a new program comes out like this, we knew ahead of time that it was going to take a little time to get all the glitches through and we are seeing some great success there," McDonald said.

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