AUGUSTA — About 70 people turned out Wednesday night to learn more about the Affordable Care Act and how to get insurance through it.

Among them was Evans Lister, 46, of Vassalboro.

“I have no coverage,” he said. “One way or another, I have to get it. Because of my medical issues I lost my job and my coverage. Everybody needs coverage.”

At the close of the session 90 minutes later, Lister said he learned that the health care coverage system is going to work. “It isn’t the horror story people are saying,” he said.

Lister attended the forum with his sister, state Rep. Lori Fowle, D-Vassalboro. She and other legislators sponsored the forum that brought panelists Ray Hurd, regional administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Kevin Lewis, chief executive officer of Maine Community Health Options and Eric Jermyn of Anthem, Inc. Community Health Options and Anthem are the two insurance providers offering covering under the insurance exchange in Maine.

State Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, said the legislators wanted to provide the question-and-answer forum to help people, and in particular those who are “confused and upset and concerned they’ll be left Jan. 1 with no insurance.”

“The website is getting better,” Hurd said in his opening remarks in Jewett Hall at the University of Maine at Augusta, referring to, the federal government’s online enrollment system that was plagued by problems when it launched. “It will continue to get better every day.”

Hurd said people now are successfully completing enrollment applications via the website. He encouraged people to enroll prior to March 31, 2014, to avoid any penalties for not having health insurance coverage.

Lewis said that most of the 271 Maine people who signed up in October for coverage under the federal health insurance marketplace have opted for the nonprofit Maine Community Health Options.

He encouraged people to check the summary of benefits coverage plan-to-plan.

“You can do modeling and anonymous shopping on our site,” Lewis said.

Hurd said people soon will be able to purchase health insurance plans directly through issuers.

The panelists recommended people go to and other sites to see how the rates are lowered by subsidies.

“You’re seeing rates,” Hurd said. “Although they may look high, you’re going to get help paying that.”

At least a dozen audience members raised their hands to indicate there were certified to help enroll people in plans, and Dr. Wendy Wolfe, a founder and chief executive officer of the Maine Health Access Foundation, recommended for information.

Hurd said the federal agency is releasing enrollment numbers monthly once they’re verified; Maine’s number of enrollees in October was 271.

A MaineGeneral Medical Center employee said the hospital has enrolled four people, but talked to a half-dozen more, some of whom likely went home and enrolled themselves.

Hurd said he’s not dismayed by the relatively low number and thinks it will pick up.

Betty Adams — 621-5631 [email protected] Twitter: @betadams

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