Georgians join thousands to beat the ACA Deadline

By Ron Harris Special to the Atlanta Voice | 3/31/2014, 5:22 p.m.
Georgians, along with tens of thousands of Americans, visited HealthCare.gov and flooded into ACA enrollment locations around the nation over ...
Jekisha Elliott looks at Geremen Teklehaimanot's phone, which was stuck on a health insurance exchange website. Photo by Jen Christensen/CNN.

Dante McKay, Get Covered America's Georgia state coordinator.

Dante McKay, Get Covered America's Georgia state coordinator.

ATLANTA - Georgians, along with tens of thousands of Americans, visited HealthCare.gov and flooded into ACA enrollment locations around the nation over the weekend, and more are doing so Monday, as the signup deadline approaches midnight for the federally-backed program.

So many logged on today that the federal site. Healthcare.gov twice stopped accepting applications because it could not handle the volume. Visitors to the site were being asked to leave their e-mail address so they could be contacted later when the volume lessened.

In Memphis, with Mayor A.C. Wharton presiding, more than 600 people flooded into Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church just an hour before the 4 p.m. closing Saturday, “and they are still coming,” a worker said.

In other cities, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington, Dallas and Los Angeles among them, Urban League affiliates and Enroll America, a agency started to get the uninsured signed up, reported scores of people signing up for ACA in a rush to beat the March 31 deadline to enroll. So far, more than six million people have signed up for the program, according to President Barack Obama.

In Atlanta, scores of uninsured area residents signed up over the weekend at Grady Memorial Hospital, North Fulton Hospital, Lovejoy Community Center, Southwest Branch of Atlanta Fulton Library, Porter Sanford Center and numerous local churches.

Inside the Atlanta headquarters for Get Covered America, an agency funded by the Roberts Woods Johnson Foundation and hospital associations to enroll the uninsured, more than 50 volunteers Saturday rang the telephones of hundreds of Atlanta-area residents, checking to see if they had already signed up and scheduling signup appointments for those who hadn’t.

“You see here,” said Georgia state coordinator Dante McKay, pointing to a large appointment sheet on a wall, “we’re getting people lined up.”

For McKay, 40, who spent the morning coordinating insurance signups at Providence Baptist Church in Southwest Atlanta before returning to headquarters, lack of health insurance is a very personal story.

Before his present position, McKay formerly served as the healthy policy director for Voices for Georgia’s Children. The agency offered insurance for McKay, an Atlanta native and graduate of Clark Atlanta University, and not his wife and child.

“So, I asked them to give me the money that I would have been paying into the plan and I used that money to go out and buy insurance for my family. I was paying about $600 a month out of pocket. The irony was that I was the health policy expert and a registered lobbyist and here I had to go through all that to get insurance.”

The issue touched close to again home recently, he said, when his wife’s mother, Doris Jackson of Macon, Ga., became uninsured when her husband became disabled. While he was able to get insurance, his plan didn’t include her, and because of her diabetes, she was turned down by insurance because of previous condition.

“Now, because of the Affordable Care Act, she’s signed up with the same company that turned her down previously, at $138 a month,” McKay said.