Health care enrollment deadline nears

2014-03-28T20:30:00Z 2014-03-30T00:09:10Z Health care enrollment deadline nearsVanessa Renderman, (219) 933-3244

Not since December have the phones been ringing so much at the federally qualified health center HealthLinc in Valparaiso.

Back then, it was callers seeking help to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, trying to meet the deadline to have coverage in place starting Jan. 1.

With a new deadline looming, the call volume has returned, said Lauren Lamb, outreach and enrollment manager for HealthLinc, which serves Northwest Indiana.

Monday is the closing day of open enrollment registration for health care, as mandated through the law, also called Obamacare.

However, the deadline will be extended to early- to mid-April for people who attempt to sign up online before Monday but are hindered by technical problems, Lamb said.

Officials said the extension is in anticipation of a last-minute rush of people seeking health insurance to meet the deadline. On Monday, more than 1.1 million people visited, the second-largest traffic day on the site, the White House said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans who do not have health insurance for more than three months this year could be subject to a tax penalty for 2014.

Most carry insurance through employer or government programs, but the U.S. Census Bureau reported about 48 million Americans were uninsured in 2012.

The next chance to enroll starts Nov. 15, unless a person has a qualifying life event, such as unemployment or a change in marital status, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Some Hoosiers are falling in a gap, because the state has not chosen to expand Medicaid. As many as 300,000 Hoosiers make too little money to qualify for federal tax credits in the marketplace -- and too much money to qualify for Medicaid, according to the Indiana Hospital Association.

Other language in the law requires employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees to offer affordable health care to employees. That requirement was delayed a year, giving employers until 2015 to comply.

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