Tampa, FL -- Chris Dawson has lived, and at times suffered, over the last two years with no healthcare insurance.
So the student and part-time worker was glad to spend about an hour meeting with a navigator to discuss his options under the Affordable Care Act today - day one of the government program.
"It's been a lot more helpful than I thought," said Dawson, who says he's glad to pay, but could never afford health insurance on his own before now.
It was a similar experience for Jessi Spencer-Hammac.
A pre-existing medical condition made healthcare unaffordable until now for the 32-year-old.
Jessi was happy with what she learned and is almost certain there's a program out there for her and her family. As an uninsured mother of a 12-year-old, she says she has lived too long with the fear of illness or injury.
"You know my daughter wanted me to go ice skating and I'm like - I can go with you - you can go skating, but I'm not. I'm like - if I fall and break something, then what?" she said.
The healthcare exchange program at USF Health has appointments to see more than a dozen people with appointments this coming week.
As word spreads, and staff builds, they figure they can assist as many as 20 people a day explore their options.
- Need help selecting a plan? Click this link for a FREE appointment with a health navigator.
"We want to be sure that before January 1st, when coverage really starts, that we've got people ready to get coverage," said Jodi Ray with the USF College of Public Health.
Meanwhile, grass-roots organizations like GetcoveredAmerica.org are canvassing neighborhoods in the Bay Area.
The organization has opened local offices to spread awareness, and point people to the places they can find information as well as get access to a navigator in their area.
At a location in Tampa, Ashley Hentze ran into the same computer problems others experienced around the country today while trying to sign-up online.
Story: Online health insurance exchanges face glitches, crashes
"It gives you a drop-down bar, but there's nothing there," said Hentze when she went to plug in her personal financial information.
The national website, Healthcare.gov was apparently overwhelmed on its first day of enrollment and saw shut-downs and delays.
SIGN UP: HealthCare.gov insurance exchanges
But like so many uninsured, Hentze was patient.
"I'll keep giving it a shot. It's worth it," she said, "Better than worrying every day."
Those who want to see their healthcare benefits take effect this coming January 1st first need to register by December 15th.
There are lots of organizations that are planning events in the Bay Area where people can get help and information to register.
Here's a list of some numbers and websites:
Healthcare 411 - Your source for Affordable Care Act info:
WTSP 10 News continues to answer questions on healthcare as October 1st brought the launch of the Health Insurance Market Place.
Click here for the Healthcare 411 homepage
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