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Trouble With State Health Connector's Call Centers Frustrates Insurance Seekers02:26
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Update at 9:17 p.m.: Gov. Charlie Baker has extended the deadline for signing up for coverage:

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Frustration with the state’s Health Connector is mounting.

Today (Friday) is the deadline for coverage that begins Feb. 1, but an untold number of residents say they’ve hit roadblocks while trying to enroll and pay for a plan. The problem at this stage is not so much the new website — it’s the call centers.

Two days ago, 32,979 people called the Connector, most with problems they could not resolve online.

Residents call and wait, hearing on the line: "Thank you for your patience, your call is important to us. Your call will be answered by our next available representative."

The general wait time was 15-30 minutes, but 42 percent of the callers either hung up or were disconnected.

"Because they’re on hold for hours and then often they're just cut off and the system just hangs up on them," said Nannci Willson, of Amesbury, who estimates she spent 10 hours on hold, calling back and faxing documents to make sure she and her son qualify for health insurance.

Willson’s bill hasn’t come, and she can’t pay online. So if she wants coverage that starts Feb. 1, she has to hand deliver a payment today.

"I’m going to go into Boston to a walk-in center, because it seems like that’s the best way to get this done, quickly," she said.

Insurance Enrollment Head Seeks Improvements To Customer Support

"Each and every frustration is an unacceptable failure on our part," says Maydad Cohen, who oversaw the roll-out of the state’s new insurance website and the call centers that help people navigate the enrollment process.

Cohen says the wait times are shorter this month than they were last month. There will be one more deadline — Feb. 15 — in this rolling enrollment period for coverage this year.

Cohen’s message to everyone who hasn't been able to sign up yet is that "We improve each time. And while they have my apologies I want them to stay with us so that we are able to help them. I want them to access and pay and receive the health insurance that they are eligible and so deserve."

Cohen and Gov. Charlie Baker say there is no plan yet to extend the deadline for people who aren’t able to pay for an insurance plan by the end of today and thus will have to wait one more month for coverage.

Related:

Martha Bebinger Twitter Reporter
Martha Bebinger covers health care and other general assignments for WBUR.

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