Health insurance enrollment begins today

by: Sarah Rosario Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

Today, millions of people without insurance can start signing up for one of the largest and controversial parts of Obamacare. They can now buy insurance through an online marketplace.

CW Williams Community Health Center CEO Beverly Irby said the new health insurance marketplaces will create an opportunity for the more than 3,000 uninsured homeless people they serve.

"We've been here for 32 years, and about a third of our clients are uninsured," Irby said.

The health center is one of three organizations in the Queen City to receive a federal grant to hire and train certified application counselors. Their job is to walk people through the enrollment process.

The lobby at CW Williams Community Health Center was packed for hours today. Events were held there all morning, including

A workshop and press conference to educate people about their options.

"It is going to get busier," said Johnnie Gage, certified counselor. "What we projected for today was that we were going to be overloaded and our capacity is limited."

Janet McDowell was happy to be the first at the clinic to sign up for the plan. She's said she's been without insurance for two years and it's been a financial burden that seemed to never end.

"You're gathering bills, bills, bills going on your credit because I couldn't afford to pay the emergency room," McDowell said.

Today's workshop was mainly for people without insurance.

There are 163,000 uninsured people in Mecklenburg County, 80,000 of those people will qualify for a subsidy, according to the Department of Health and Human Services

McDowell was one of the dozens at the clinic today hoping to be one of them.

"I'm scheduled for surgery but I couldn't afford to pay for the surgery so hopefully this will be something that helps me out."

There are four plans to choose from.

• For some people it could cost less than $100.
• People without insurance who don't enroll before the Jan. 1 deadline could pay a fine.
• Coverage will begin Jan. 1 for those who sign up by Dec. 15.

The CW Williams Community Health Center will be open to help with for Monday through Thursday from 8:15 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. They close at 2 p.m. Friday.

People who need help are asked to make appointments first. You'll need your 2012 tax return and your Social Security card.

Click here for more information on the Affordable Care Act.