Decoding the ACA

Health insurance enrollment deadline nears

2014-03-02T05:00:00Z Health insurance enrollment deadline nearsVanessa Renderman vanessa.renderman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3244 nwitimes.com

Uninsured Americans have less than a month to enroll in health care coverage, a requirement of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

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

For coverage to take effect this year, people have until March 31 to sign up.

Short of a qualifying life event – such as unemployment or a change in marital status – the next opportunity to enroll starts Nov. 15, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

About 48,000 Indiana residents have enrolled in one of four coverage plans under the Indiana Health Insurance Marketplace, according to the Indiana Hospital Association, citing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

As of Thursday, more than 4 million Americans had enrolled in private health insurance in the marketplace.

With the last leg of the enrollment period underway, word is spreading.

"We have just been mobbed," said Beth Wrobel, CEO of HealthLinc, a Federally Qualified Health Center that serves Northwest Indiana.

Federally Qualified Health Centers, which also help people sign up for Medicaid, are a natural resource for those who need to enroll in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. 

When open enrollment began in October, there were glitches and confusion. People were kicked out mid-enrollment online or couldn't get past the first few screens. Most of that has subsided.

"I think some people gave up before," Wrobel said. "Now, we're able to sit with them, enroll them, let them pick their plans."

Wrobel said word of mouth is helping build momentum in these final signup days.

"We are starting to see people who got it in January – they're telling their friends," she said. "They're calling, saying, 'You helped them. Can you help us?'"

The health center has been hosting coffee talks and setting enrollment appointments.

"The system and process are working," she said.

Wrobel said the navigators who remain working after the close of enrollment will move into an educational phase.

"People are going to need some help understanding what this insurance card actually means," she said. "If you've never had an insurance card, it's different."

In Indiana, some people 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.

The association last week announced the launch of Expand Indiana, a statewide campaign to educate people on the importance of expanding health care coverage in Indiana. 

Gov. Mike Pence met Feb. 21 with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, to talk about the role of the state's Healthy Indiana Plan in bringing coverage to more Hoosiers.

The state calls the plan, known as HIP, "a consumer-directed alternative to Medicaid that has shifted the Medicaid paradigm in Indiana."

To sign up for health care coverage or for help in signing up, visit www.healthcare.gov or call (800) 318-2596.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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