An appointment with a JABA marketplace counselor is free.
The main sticking point in the government shutdown is the Affordable Care Act, and the Republican attempt to block it. But open enrollment started Tuesday anyway, and the Jefferson Area Board for Aging - or JABA - felt the impact.
JABA had people on hand to explain how the online insurance marketplace works. Since looking through different healthcare plans can be overwhelming, the goal of JABA's marketplace counselors is to make the process as seamless as possible for customers.
The phones rang off the hook at JABA on Tuesday.
"When they call they want to know what it is - some of them are really not certain - and then it's a chance to explain," said marketplace counselor Donna Blessing.
The marketplace counselors will be doing a lot of explaining these next few months; Tuesday was just the start of the open enrollment period.
The appointments were cut short Tuesday though, when the government website Healthcare.gov crashed. Marketplace counselor Judy Robinson says she isn't surprised the site went down.
"Every year during open enrollment the Medicare website crashes the first day or two too, and this is going to be a lot more people than are visiting the website for Medicare. It's really nothing to despair about," Robinson said.
Robinson says, although the software on the website does all of the calculations for a customer, it's still good to have counselors on hand to break down the details.
"It's going to be a big help just to have somebody who understands insurance and how insurance works and what sorts of things to watch out for," Robinson said.
JABA's marketplace counselors are trained as certified application counselors. They have completed 10 hours of online training and most of them are already Medicare counselors with experience in comparing insurance plans.
Anybody can make an appointment with a marketplace counselor at JABA free of charge.