Union avoids HealthCare.gov to help uninsured apply

One of the nation's largest labor unions is influencing Americans to apply for affordable health insurance by phone or on paper to bypass technical problems with the HealthCare.gov website.  

The Service Employees International Union, which represents 2.1 million workers, launched a massive campaign in 23 communities to support the Affordable Care Act and help uninsured citizens apply for coverage, reported Reuters. SEIU is steering applicants around the troubled website by filling out paper applications or phoning in applications to government call centers.

Trained SEIU members are contacting tens of thousands of uninsured Americans every week to pitch the program. Union members in Illinois made 7,000 phone calls on Oct. 1, California activists reached more than 100,000 households and union members are knocking on about 1,800 doors a day in New York City, according to the article.

SEIU members and the citizens they helped obtain insurance met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Oct. 21, according to a union blog post. The SEIU's efforts may help the Obama administration reach its goal of enrolling 7 million Americans before the March 31, 2014, deadline. The union's work also may buy time to fix the website flaws.

But SEIU's efforts may strain capacity limits of contractors who process paper and telephonic applications. And paper applications can bring their own frustrations: Depending on the application's complexity and completeness, it can take up to 10 weeks from beginning a paper application to health plan enrollment. There's also concern that the union's efforts could contribute to crushing traffic on Healthcare.gov once it operates smoothly.

"The website is an issue, but in our experience it's not really the way people are choosing to enroll," SEIU President Mary Kay Henry told Reuters. "People want health coverage, and they're going to figure out how to get through the obstacles to make it happen."

To learn more:
- read the Reuters article
- check out the SEIU blog post

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