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Maryland Officials Work To Help People Enroll In Affordable Care Act

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Meghan McCorkell joined the Eyewitness News team in July 2011 as a...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Fiery exchange. Heated words as members of Congress grilled a government official about the failures of the Affordable Care Act website–this as more Marylanders try to sign up for health insurance.

Meghan McCorkell has more on the controversial hearing.

That problem-plagued website sparked lots of questions Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

There were rapid-fire questions for the head of the federal health care website, who apologized for what’s being called a disastrous rollout.

While some in Congress call for delays to the enrollment deadlines, the administration promises website service will be improved.

“The bottom line conclusion is this healthcare.gov site is fixable,” said Marilyn Tavenner, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

Then, there was another hit for Obamacare.

“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan,” the president said when he began promoting the Affordable Care Act.

But CBS News has learned insurance providers are dropping more than two million people because their policies don’t meet minimum standards of the new law.

“The whitehouse.gov website says if you want to keep the health insurance you’ve got, you can keep it, and now they’re being told they can’t. That’s a lie,” said Rep. Aaron Schrock, (R) Illinois.

That is also sending more into the health care exchange.

Here in Maryland, officials say at least 300,000 people have visited the state’s exchange website.

Teams familiar with that enrollment process have been touring the state answering questions.

“The average person doesn’t know all about insurance, what all of their options are or even that they’re eligible,” said Priscilla Chatman, HealthCare Access Maryland partner.

In some cases, specially trained navigators are helping people through the online enrollment process.

Ben Prestbury came looking to help his neighbors.

“So I’m here to basically get my mindset right to tell them exactly what they might need to do to qualify,” he said.

But website woes are a slowdown to some. Maryland’s own website has dealt with its share of glitches, as well.

“The exchange, they’re really working hard around the clock to try to fix all those kinks and try to work out things,” said Jekisha Elliott, HealthCare Access Maryland.

“We’re on day 29.  I’ve had 18 attempts to get on the website and get good information, and I have yet to be successful,” said Del. Kathy Szeliga.

About 40,000 people have created accounts on the site and 3,100 have enrolled for coverage.

Perry Hall Delegate Szeliga praises outreach efforts, but agrees enrollment deadlines should be delayed.

“We need to do more to help people because this website is not working and people are not signing up,” she said.

Anne Chester says she is waiting until the glitches are gone.

“Let us get it fixed and then we’ll see what it is that we then need to talk about, to see whether it works or not,” Chester said.

The lack of a fix is a source of frustration for many.

The contractor that developed Maryland’s website has now added more staff to fix website glitches.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be in the hot seat in front of a House committee Wednesday. Some have called for her to step down in the wake of the website fiasco.

You can get unbiased information about health plan options and enrollment assistance by calling HealthCare Access of Maryland’s Insurance Call Center at 1-877-223-5201. To access Maryland’s insurance website, click here.

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