Apply for health insurance coverage four ways: on paper, online, in person or on the phone.

WINSLOW — If the signup session for the Affordable Care Act at Winslow Public Library Monday morning was any indication, applicants still prefer the pen and pencil sign-up method for applying for healthcare coverave.

About a half-dozen residents took advantage of  the health insurance sign-up session Monday morning, but consistent issues plaguing the digital application process continued and most applicants chose to sign up on paper forms.

“It didn’t really matter that the marketplace wasn’t working. I’m very old-school — I like paperwork,” said Amy Goldstein, a middle-aged Winslow resident who was applying for health insurance through the marketplace for the first time. 

Goldstein had always had insurance, working part time for Shaw’s supermarket for 16 years, which she said provided great insurance. After leaving the company last year, Goldstein took a part-time job with the Winslow Public Library. Because she doesn’t work full time at the library, she wasn’t offered insurance through the town.

While the online marketplace wasn’t working well during the session, Cheryl Leonard, the health navigator for Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, said that there have been some improvements in the last two weeks. “It has gotten better — significantly,” Leonard said, adding that in the first two weeks of the marketplace sign-up, she would get nowhere most of the time. 

President Barack Obama spoke about the technical issues with the federal marketplace website last week, saying that no one is more upset than he is at the difficulties with the website. Since the federal marketplace was open for citizens to apply for healthcare on Oct. 1, the new system has been the subject of numerous complaints as users who have tried to sign up for coverage have been met with problems logging onto the site or completing the application process. 

The federal online marketplace was established for states that decided against establishing online marketplaces for healthcare options. The online system was designed as a way for people without healthcare to compare various plans to see which best suits their needs. The federal marketplace should be running smoothly for all users by the end of November, according to White House official Jeffrey Zients. 

Leonard also said that if the problems aren’t continuously resolved in the next few weeks, it’s possible the March 31 signup deadline will be extended.

“If in the next few weeks they don’t see a major improvement in the online application, I would be surprised if there’s not some sort of extension,” she said.

Throughout the first month of marketplace applications, about half the people Leonard has worked with have applied online, while the other half prefers the traditional method. 

“A lot of people just aren’t comfortable with a computer,” said Leonard, who works with residents throughout Kennebec and Somerset counties on the healthcare signups. “I don’t have a preference for online or paper applications. In my mind, I usually think people will come in and we’ll do it on the computer, but if they say they don’t have an email or don’t want one, then we just switch to paper.”

Paper applications for the healthcare marketplace can be printed out at the healthcare.gov website.

While Goldstein admitted that the past year has been stressful at times without insurance, she wanted to wait to see how the system worked after a couple weeks before applying. Yet, when the system refused to cooperate when she tried signing up with Leonard, Goldstein was had no problem with a paper application.

“I’m not one that does a lot on the computer,” she said. “I’m just looking forward to getting my insurance. I like everything set in stone.”

Jesse Scardina ­— 861-9239
[email protected]
Twitter: @jessescardina