The latest statistics on the number of people signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act fall far short of government forecasts.
The Obama Administration revealed on Wednesday that only 624 people in Alabama had enrolled in insurance plans through the government's online insurance exchange. Nationwide, just over 106,000 Americans signed up. The administration had predicted a number closer 500,000.
"We've seen progress every day," said Mary Elizabeth Marr at the AIDS Action Coalition, which is providing "navigators," facilitators to help walk applicants through the process of enrolling in subsidized insurance plans. She and fellow advocates blame the weak numbers on the bumpy startup of the government's "healthcare.gov" website.
"They seem to be very disappointing but it's really only been the last week that things have been moving smoothly," she said.
"The first couple of weeks was, for lack of a better word, a nightmare," agreed navigator Scott Haynes, "just because we couldn't actually get through and get signed up. But in this past week, we've gotten people all the way through and gotten people some subsidies."
The numbers come as thousands of people across Alabama and millions nationwide discovered that, under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans they already had have been outlawed, their policies cancelled because they didn't meet the new requirements of the new law.
"They do complain," said Marr. "And I don't have any answers for that. Other than that it's the law of the land."
The loss of those policies under the Affordable Care Act has brought new calls from congressional critics of the law for it to be changed.
"We've got to change this law," said Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions."The promises aren't coming true. Things they were told aren't coming true."
Sessions said, even in a U.S. Senate dominated by Democrats, measures like a law to let people keep the insurance plans they have been gaining support.
"I already begin to see some members, who cast key votes to pass this thing and have rejected any improvements or changes in it, beginning to see what's happening out there," Sessions said. "They've been hearing from their constituents and I think they're waffling."
Navigators are promising to keep up the effort to enroll more people in the online healthcare plans. 'There are some that are not happy with the change and there are some that are absolutely pleased with it," said Haynes. "But we all need to understand that it is change and it doesn't come easily."
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