Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Deadline is today for February Obamacare insurance coverage

By Jamey Dunn

Illinoisans looking to become insured through Obamacare must pick a plan today if they want it to go into effect on February 1.

After the federal online health-care marketplace, and the state exchanges tied to it, suffered a glitch-filled rollout, the early Affordable Care Act and Patient Protection Act deadlines were pushed back. Originally, consumers were asked to sign up by December 15 to get coverage beginning this month. But President Barack Obama’s administration pushed that cutoff to December 23. Since then, some of the technical problems have been sorted out, and enrollment numbers have surged. The administration decided to let today’s deadline stand. Those who do not pick coverage today still have time. Open enrollment lasts until March 31. Americans who do not have coverage at that point face the possibility of being fined for violating the insurance mandate included in the law. There are some exceptions for those who have a religious objection or cannot afford insurance.

Illinois’ insurance exchange, getcoveredillinois.gov, is tied to the federal site and had technical issues after it went online. Illinois’ website has had 788,035 visits since October 1. Problems with the website are likely reflected in the early sign-up numbers. Only 7,000 people picked insurance plans in October or November. About 54,000 signed up for plans last month. The state also launched an outreach effort in December to encourage residents to sign up before the deadline for January coverage. Officials expect sign-up numbers to grow as the final days of open enrollment draw nearer. “While we are encouraged by the almost eight-fold increase in marketplace enrollments in December, there’s still much more work to do to reach Illinois’ uninsured population,” Jennifer Koehler, executive director of Get Covered Illinois, said in a prepared statement. “We know who is eligible, and we have a solid plan in place to reach them. Over the next 78 days, we will work closely with our hundreds of community partners across Illinois to ensure that everyone who needs it can take advantage of the opportunity to obtain quality, affordable health care.”

Of all Illinois enrollees, 73 percent were eligible for federal subsidies to help cover some of the cost of their insurance premiums. The state has also enrolled 136,000 new Medicaid patients under Obamacare. With more than 100 outreach events scheduled across the state, Illinois officials hope to use the upcoming holiday weekend to grow enrollment numbers. “We are building momentum and raising awareness statewide through our marketing, events and targeted outreach efforts,” Koehler said. “We are just halfway through the enrollment process for the marketplace, which runs through March 31st.”

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