Need help with your health insurance application?

By Nancy MetcalfConsumer Reports

HealthCare.gove and most state-run Health Insurance Marketplace websites (with the exceptions of Oregon and Maryland) are working well for a lot of applicants at this point. But not for all: Some are running into website malfunctions at various points in the process or getting eligibility determinations that seem to make no sense, and haven't been able to fix the problems on their own.

With the Dec 23 deadline fast approaching to enroll in a plan with a Jan. 1 start date, if you’re one of these folks, it’s time to call in some reinforcements.

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Here’s what NOT to do: call the national help line. Readers with mystery application glitches have not reported any help from that quarter. “The help line is there to give general information about the marketplace,” said Jodi Ray, project director of Florida Covering Kids & Families, a University of South-Florida based nonprofit that helps families enroll in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Instead, seek out free help in your local community from a Navigator or In-Person Assister. Employees of nonprofits, health centers, and other such groups, those helpers have received extensive training in how the law works and can literally sit side by side with you in front of a computer to deal with your problems and questions.

Two months into the fall open enrollment period, they have also at this point had a lot of experience with the quirks of the various marketplaces and how to work around problems. Here's some earlier advice on what to bring to your appointment.

“People who have tried to start the process and gotten stuck should definitely be reaching out to a local Navigator or In-Person Assister,” said Ray, whose own agency is running a Navigator program.

Start on’s Find Local Help search page. If you live in one of the 36 states whose marketplaces are being run through, it will direct you to a list of flesh-and-blood helpers in your community. If you live in a state that’s running its own marketplace, the page will direct you there where you will see a similar search service.

Got a question for our health insurance expert? Ask it here; be sure to include the state you live in. And if you can't get enough health insurance news here, follow me on Twitter @NancyMetcalf.

Health reform countdown: We are doing an article a day on the new health care law until Jan. 1, 2014, when it takes full effect. (Read the previous posts in the series.) To get health insurance advice tailored to your situation, use our Health Law Helper, below.

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