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City steps up outreach to help locals enroll in Obamacare

With HealthCare.gov experiencing a rocky start, the city is stepping up to provide assistance to citizens who need insurance.

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Enroll America has made Philadelphia its first official city partner in efforts to spread information to the general public about how citizens can sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, Mayor Michael Nutter announced today.

Nutter conceded that Obamacare has had “a bit of a rocky start,” but urged citizens to take advantage of Enroll America's assistance.

“I hope more Philadelphians will make their health and well-being a priority and get enrolled,” he said.

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Nutter said that there are more than 210,000 uninsured people in Philadelphia. Of these, 135,000 people should be eligible to sign up through the Affordable Care Act, said deputy mayor for healthDr. Donald Schwarz.

Now some city employees, agencies such as the Free Library, and 311 operators are trained to assist citizens in signing up for insurance through the government exchange.

Enroll America has been working in Philadelphia since Sept. 1 to spread information about the Affordable Care Act to citizens, by attending community meetings and going door to door with brochures and signing people up for informational mailings, according to Pennsylvania State Director Bill England.

“We’re sweeping everywhere across the city,” England said.

Citizens must sign up through the government's health care exchange by Dec. 23 to be insured as of Jan. 1, 2014.

Philadelphia residents who are eligible for a government subsidy will still need to sign up online through HealthCare.gov or over the phone. The only insurers currently offered on the exchange in Philadelphia are Independence Blue Cross or Aetna.

"We are ready for these individuals and look forward to serving them," said Aetna spokeswoman Susan Millerick.

Residents can determine whether they are eligible for a subsidy at HealthCare.gov or Independence Blue Cross's site ibx4you.com, which also allows them to sign up for health care coverage through Independence Blue Cross.

“The website got off to a bad start,” Dr. Schwarz said at the press conference. “But websites and the phones work enough that people should be able to exercise all options to get insured by January 1st.”

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