Beth and Russ Evans, of Mount Vernon, have been on an insurance odyssey the last several months, trying to replace their large-deductible policy that became invalid under the federal Affordable Care Act.

As self-employed consultants, the couple, who are both in their 50s, said they eventually settled on a new policy that appears to pass muster with the new law and meet the federal mandate that they have insurance.

But even as the coverage takes effect Wednesday , they still don’t know if their plan is good enough. On Dec.24, after months of attempting to navigate error-prone, they chose a policy, but they haven’t received a confirmation and were not able to find out what doctors they could use under the new insurance, they said.

They also said they haven’t received a bill from the insurance company.

“You hear so much about people opposed to the Affordable Care Act and that’s not us,” Beth Evans said. “Once it was here we accepted and embraced it. We’re really excited at the idea of actual health care, but it’s scary to have no idea what we have.”

The first insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act will go into effect Wednesday , the next step in a federal plan to provide health care for the uninsured. About 1.1 million people nationwide who have signed up are expecting their new health care plans to take effect.

The promise of affordable health care is a positive improvement for some, yet for others it has meant unexpected frustrations with the rollout of the new system. Across the country, the Obama administration has received backlash for technical difficulties that have delayed signups for the new health insurance plans, particularly on the website.

Russ and Beth Evans have struggled with health insurance options since leaving regular employment.

In October, when health insurance signups opened up, they thought the new insurance plans would be a good thing. They said they are healthy overall, but do pay for some prescriptions out of pocket.

They also have a 24-year-old daughter, a student who works part-time at TJ Maxx and lives in Augusta, and they are concerned she will not be able to get coverage.

With health insurance coverage scheduled to begin on Wednesday , the couple said they don’t know what will happen. Without a confirmation of enrollment or a bill, they are worried they will be without insurance at least temporarily.

Getting better

“I do believe the website is improving and more people are having more success,” said Connie Coggins, president of HealthReach Community Health Centers, a Waterville-based network of 11 regional health clinics that has been active in helping people enroll in the health insurance marketplace. “Our counselors have commented that it’s gotten better in terms of the technical glitches and I think more information is out there for consumers as well.

“A number of people probably still don’t understand what might be available to them.”

The clinic has assisted about 200 people per month since October in different aspects of the signup, whether it is walking them through the entire process or giving them the information they need to sign-up online, she said.

“We’re expecting that some of our patients who haven’t really had the resources to pay for coverage will now have health insurance. It’s hard for us to tell before people start presenting at their visits, how many of our individual patients will have coverage,” said Coggins.

Those who haven’t signed up for insurance are subject to financial penalty under the law’s individual mandate, which goes into effect after open enrollment ends on March 31, according to

‘Unfair’ to those who wait

Rhonda Marquis, 56, a self-employed hairdresser who also lives in Mount Vernon and who does not have insurance, said the potential penalty under the mandate is unfair. She has not tried to sign up for insurance in the new marketplace, saying she has been deterred by stories of how long and difficult the process can be.

“I don’t have the time to come home after working 12 hour days and sit down and try to figure this out by myself. I work with my hands, I don’t have time to look at a computer during work,” said Marquis, who uses a lot of acupuncture and natural health practices that she is able to barter in exchange for hairdressing services.

Marquis said she would like to get insurance if it would cover alternative medicine.

“I just think they haven’t worked out all the quirks yet, so to penalize us for not signing up doesn’t seem fair,” she said.

Kevin Lewis, CEO of Maine Community Health Options, one of two insurers through which insurance is available, said that coverage is effective for everyone who has enrolled and made their first month payment.

“We’ve been working hard to respond to people’s questions and requests,” Lewis said. “It’s been incredibly busy with people trying to get enrolled. Certainly the early issues with the website led to some technical issues for people but we’re doing what we can to make sure people get the coverage they need by tomorrow.”

Anthem BlueCross BlueShield, the other company through which insurance is available, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Insurance ID cards are being issued and although they may not arrive in the mail until after the first of the year, people don’t need to worry, Lewis said. If they are enrolled and have made their first month’s payment they will not be denied services, he said.

“People have hit one barrier after another,” Lewis said. “They’ve just been unable to get through to HealthCare.Gov to access the marketplace.”

He said the insurer is extending enrollment deadlines for people who have experienced technical problems, including those in the state who have been without power because of the recent ice storm and did not have power as of Tuesday.

People must still apply through in addition to contacting Maine Community Health Options directly. The deadline for those affected by the ice storm to apply for coverage beginning this month is Jan. 6.

Rachel Ohm— 612-2368 [email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.