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The goal is to sign up at least 2,000 St. Mary’s residents for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, according to those charged with helping people enroll here.

Enrollment nationwide began Oct. 1. Walden, a St. Mary’s health services provider, has been contracted to help explain new health care plans and enroll those who qualify into private health care options based on their income.

Seven workers, called “navigators” and “assisters,” are stationed at Walden’s Hope Place in Lexington Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and on Thursdays from 1 to 6 p.m., said Kaya Daley, who is overseeing the contract. Walden also has staff ready to help at its Charlotte Hall location from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays.

Those interested also may call the Lexington Park and Leonardtown offices of the St. Mary’s County Department of Social Services for information about when staff will be on hand to navigate the new health care system.

An Enrollment Cargo Van was scheduled Thursday to be in Leonardtown at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital to offer residents more information.

“There’s 800,000 uninsured Marylanders,” Daley said. “Our goal is to really reach the portion of that that we have in St. Mary’s. The contract goal is to reach at least 2,000 people and get them enrolled.”

Five residents had signed up, she said, on Wednesday afternoon. And, even as the state’s website offering electronic enrollment had some glitches early this week due to higher-than-expected demand, Daley said, the staff had been working with paper applications.

Residents also may call for additional information. Walden has a hotline at 301-863-6661. “Our staff is there 24-7,” Daley said. Walden has the contract for 11 months and plans to have its enrollment goals complete this March.

“We’ve had a tremendous volume of calls,” said Dr. Meena Brewster, health officer of the St. Mary’s County Health Department. She encourages people to call Walden’s hotline and request assistance as they weigh their choices for health care. “We expect at least a few thousand additional enrollees in Southern Maryland alone,” she said.

The Affordable Care Act won’t take care of 100 percent of people who are uninsured in St. Mary’s, Calvert or Charles, Brewster said. “But it does improve it significantly.”

nclark@somdnews.com