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Obamacare Enrollment Period Closes in on Final Weeks

Obamacare enrollment

Obama still cares about the health law — and about hitting the administration’s new goal of 6 million enrollees by March. The president announced yesterday that 700,000 people enrolled in February, pushing overall figures to 4 million.

With only five weeks remaining in the enrollment period, and really just two weeks to secure a policy, HealthCare.gov is undoubtedly gearing up for a two-week grace period to get itself together before April 1.

The site remains shaky during surges of traffic, especially when deadlines approach, but enrollment efforts persist. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) spokeswoman Marilyn Tavenner is “tired of talking” about the site’s persistent woes, according to a Wall Street Journal interview. Tavenner mentioned that the federal agency running the marketplace should have hired a systems integrator to implement the website instead on trying to do it on its own.

Friday is the absolute last day to make premium payments on marketplace plans effective March 1. That transaction takes place directly through the insurer’s portal and shouldn’t impact the Obamacare website at all, however.

But the deadline for last month’s enrollment group is also a reminder for those who haven’t been able to sign up yet or haven’t tried — March 15 is the last day to choose a plan. Consumers have until the end of the month to pay their insurer, but the dates should not be confused.

Below are the three key dates to remember for Americans signing up for individual coverage in March.

Final Days of Enrollment

 

Unlike the pre-reform health insurance market, coverage won’t be available to freely purchase or change after March 15. Those who miss the deadline or can’t work things out with the marketplace can buy temporary health insurance to cover themselves affordably until the next enrollment period.

Changing your plan as often as you liked was one perk of buying your own health plan before Obamacare, but that came at the cost of being exclusive to healthy people. In order for the system to be more fair, a few less options are offered in turn.

While you can cancel your coverage at any time, that now means you’ll be uninsured by the law’s definition — even with a short-term plan. That’s why exchange workers, agents, and the White House are making extra efforts to get people enrolled.

“We’ve only got a few weeks left,” President Obama said at an Organizing for Action dinner on Tuesday, stressing the new enrollment total.

“March 31, that’s the last call. If folks aren’t signed up by March 31, they can’t sign up again until the next open-enrollment period with the 2015 rates,” he said. “So if they want health insurance now, they need to sign up now, and we’re going to make a big push these last few weeks.”

Florida advocacy group Health Care for Florida Now posted an events calendar on their website where navigators and enrollment assistance personnel will be working daily between March 1-15 to increase sign-ups across one of the nation’s most uninsured states.

The goal of 6 million enrolled in a mere two weeks is ambitious. The federal website’s weaknesses alone put the efforts at a disadvantage, though it’s fortunate that with the help of the insurance industry the estimated 4 million private plan enrollees have had success.

“We may not get to seven, we may get to five or six, and that’s a hell of a start,” Vice President Joe Biden said in Minneapolis.

As for the young and healthy population needed to offset costs, it still only comprises 27 percent of the total pool. Not surprisingly, older Americans who need healthcare have been more eager to buy coverage on the exchange than the 18 to 35-year-old group.

 

B. Somers

B. Somers is a contributor to Health Insurance News, focusing on medical coverage, carriers, public programs and Obamacare. Writing for East Coast Health Insurance since 2012, she got started with healthcare and insurance news at its most exciting time in U.S. history.
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