Affordable Health Care Sign-Up Deadline Near

Mar 17, 2014

Uninsured people have a mere two weeks to take action and sign up for Affordable Health Care.

If you are not among those who already have health coverage through an employer or privately obtained comprehensive health insurance, the March 31st deadline for signing up for health insurance is drawing near.

Credit WAMC Composite Photo by Dave Lucas

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, you must be covered this year or face a penalty of $95 per person or 1 percent of your income, whichever is higher.   After the 31st, you won't be able to buy a health insurance plan again until the next open enrollment period begins on November 15th for coverage that will begin in 2015.

New York State of Health counsel Lisa Sbrana and Access Health CT CEO Kevin Counihan joined four other state exchange leaders on a conference call Thursday led by Families USA, a national nonprofit that advocates for the Affordable Care Act.   Sbrana notes New York has conducted a thorough public awareness campaign.   "We have additional e-mails tee'd up going out to folks letting 'em know, one, that they need to come in by March 31st to meet the open enrollment date, and, two, that if they don't they may face a tax penalty. So we are letting people know that and in our talking points when we're doing outreach events and out in the community we're also informing people. We want them to be aware of the consequences of not enrolling."

Sixteen insurance companies are represented on New York's official health insurance exchange website,   Sbrana noted that "In addition to the 615-thousand people that Urban Institute estimated that we would enroll through the full implementation of the ACA which takes us through 2016, they also estimated there were about 500-thousand people who would be eligible for our Medicaid program who were also uninsured. So we're focusing on both of those populations."

Figures for cumulative health enrollments through March 1 show the U.S. met 75 percent of its sign-up goal, with 13 states exceeding federal targets but the rest lagging.

Both the NY exchange website and Access Health CT have been spared the technical problems that plagued the federal site,   Connecticut's Kevin Counihan says while his state has also aggressively endeavoured to educate people about the penalties for failing to register, he doesn't expect a huge surge in enrollment in the coming weeks, and believes that over time, all qualifying individuals will voluntarily choose to participate.   "Because of all the protections to the carriers and the fact that I think this is a three- to - four year implementation anyway, I think the most important thing for us to do as states is to get as many people in to these exchanges as much as possible, irrespective of demographic mix, to build a momentum for both growth and sustainability. My sense is and my experience has been that if we keep that momentum going, we're going to get the appropriate risk balance, just to the law of large numbers."

He adds 92 percent of Connecticut enrollees have come in through paid premiums.  The federal government recently released statistics showing that 4.2 million people have purchased health coverage in plans sold through either the federal exchange or a state marketplace. The figure is about 2 million shy of the 6 million people the government had hoped to enroll by March 31st.