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New Obamacare sign-up effort aligns with expected website fix

Cathey Park of Cambridge, Massachusetts shows her cast signed by U.S. President Barack Obama after he spoke about health insurance at Faneui
Cathey Park of Cambridge, Massachusetts shows her cast signed by U.S. President Barack Obama after he spoke about health insurance at Faneui

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) - A new push to sign up Americans for insurance under President Barack Obama's healthcare law will begin in December, when the government's faulty enrollment website is expected to work better, an advocacy group leading the campaign said on Tuesday.

Technical problems with the HealthCare.Gov website since it opened October 1 has hindered enrollment and undercut momentum for organizations such as Enroll America, which has led efforts to explain benefits to consumers in 10 states, including Florida, Texas and Ohio.

The Obama administration is racing to fix the website by November 30 so that people who want benefits to start on January 1 can enroll in time under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Enroll America has "heard the expectations that things will really be running smoothly by the end of November, so for our planning purposes, we do want to do that big push in early December," the non-profit group's president, Anne Filipic, told reporters on a conference call.

The Obama administration is due to report October enrollment totals this week, but has already said the early numbers will be very low due to the technical failures. Previously, as many as 7 million people had been expected to sign up for the private plans offered through new insurance marketplaces in each state.

December 15 is the deadline to sign up for coverage effective January 1. The open enrollment period lasts until March 31.

Enroll America officials said the organization has reached more than 300,000 consumers and identified 30,000 who are uninsured or underinsured and very interested in enrolling for coverage. It expects to reach about 300,000 people by the end of the enrollment period, representing 10 percent of the roughly 3 million people expected to enroll during the period in the 10 target states.

The organization said it has raised $27 million since March to support its "Get Covered America" campaign. It focuses on reaching people who otherwise likely would not have been aware of the new coverage, "needles in the haystack," Filipic said.

With 200 staff, Enroll America said it has signed up 10,000 volunteers, more than half since October 1, to knock on doors, make phone calls and staff tables at farmers markets, football games and other community events.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by Grant McCool)

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