Navigators and assisters helped a lot of consumers — and were "key" to 8 million signups — during the first open enrollment period under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, according to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. But the navigator program wasn't without its challenges.

More than 4,400 assister programs nationwide — employing more than 28,000 full-time-equivalent staff and volunteers — helped an estimated 10.6 million people during open enrollment, the report said. On average, each assister helped more than 370 people during the six-month open enrollment period that ran from Oct. 1 through March 31.

Still, about 12 percent of assister programs said consumer demand for their help far outpaced their capacity throughout enrollment. The problem worsened during the late surge at the end of March, which marked the end of open enrollment, as 24 percent of navigators said they couldn't meet demands.

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