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ACA Help in Johnson County

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- The Department of Health and Human Services released the newest enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday, and the numbers look a little low.

In Iowa, more than 5,500 people have completed an online application, but only 136 have actually chosen a plan; however officials, hospitals, clinics and nonprofits in Johnson County are working to try to increase that number.

"It's very challenging to keep up with all of the information of the Affordable Care Act," said Iowa City Free Clinic executive director Barbara Vinograde.

One of the problems that may be keeping people from choosing a plan is a lack of that information. There is one federal navigator position for all of eastern Iowa, and that position has yet to be filled. In order to fill the gap, Vinograde, along with representatives from MECCA, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Mercy Hospital, Johnson County Public Health, Social Services, the Board of Supervisors, Community Mental Health, United Way and others, have joined together to form the Johnson County Healthcare Coalition.

"It's taken us a while to realize that we have an opportunity to really educate the community in a way that would be very helpful to increase enrollment," Vinograde said.

The coalition is working to put out a brochure and host local public meetings for people to get the information they need to make an educated choice.

There is no current federal outlet for ACA information in Johnson County, and Vinograde said the only qualified counselors are located at UIHC.

"It could be seen as frustrating, but we're also very fortunate in the number of providers we have in this community," she said.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said the enrollment numbers are a sign that Obamacare isn't working.

"The website is in such chaos that individuals worry they won't be able to enroll in a plan as required, through no fault of their own. Obamacare is a mess," he said.

Still, Vinograde said, there can't be anything negative about giving people the chance to get affordable care.

"I think the Affordable Care Act is such a landmark piece of legislation and with it being such an amazing piece of legislation it brings so many unknowns," Vinograde said.

Vinograde said people should be on the lookout for more information from the coalition within the next few weeks.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is the agency responsible for the hiring the local navigator.
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