Help with signing up for health care

Andrea Hypolite, the outreach and assistance director for the Children’s Center Inc. and a health insurance navigator, answers questions Monday about the Affordable Care Act and the deadline to register in her office at the Galveston Island Community Center. Monday was the deadline for ACA enrollment.

JENNIFER REYNOLDS/The Daily News

GALVESTON — The four employees at Coastal Health and Wellness Center were booked solid Monday, prepared to work until 8 p.m. to help people sign up for health insurance in the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act.

“We’ve been booked up for today for probably over a week now,” said Pam Jahnke, the chief nursing officer for the Galveston County Health District. “I know one of the girls worked through her lunch period.”

The wellness center is just one of the Galveston County groups awarded grants to help inform people about the new health care law and, if needed, help them sign up for a plan through the healthcare.gov website.

Monday marked the last day for open enrollment for a health-care plan. Groups around the county said they were busy helping people who waited until the last minute to sign up for insurance.

Most of the people coming into enrollment centers Monday had scheduled appointments in advance, but some were seeking last-minute help, Jahnke said.

“It’s pretty wild and crazy, we’ve been making appointments,” she said. “We don’t usually see people on the fly because we try to coach them.”

Those calling for last-minute help got some in the form of advice: At this point, it’s better to have done the bare minimum to sign up, then to have done nothing at all.

“They have to already be logged in and have at least tried the application,” Jahnke said. “If they go that far, we’ll help them over the next few days as well. They have to already have started.”

Although Monday was supposed to be the deadline for enrollment, the White House announced that millions of people could be eligible for extensions if they were prevented from signing up by technical difficulties, human error or natural disasters.

At the Island Community Center in Galveston, Andrea Hypolite, the program director for the Children’s Center, another local group contracted through a navigator grant, said people encountering difficulties were encouraged to at least create an online account and have their names put on a list as evidence of their efforts.

“We’re still helping them set up their emails and try to set up their profile account,” Hypolite said. “That’s true verification that they did try to get in before the deadline.”

The total number of people who signed up for insurance under the health care law won’t be known for a few weeks, although a surge of enrollment was reported as the deadline neared.

The healthcare.gov website received 8.7 million visits in the past week, according to The Washington Post, and 2 million visits this weekend alone. The federal call center set up for enrollment received more calls in the last week — 2.5 million — than it did during the entire month of February.

The push toward the end of enrollment has included an increase in advertising (you might have noticed the healthcare.gov commercials featuring LeBron James and Alonzo Mourning running during the NCAA tournament these past few weekends) and last-ditch efforts locally to find more potential enrollees.

The true cost to individuals for missing out on enrollment this year could remain unclear for the time being. Under the law, the Internal Revenue Service can apply a penalty for people who remained uninsured this year, but it remains to be seen how aggressively the penalties will be enforced.

People who choose to risk paying a penalty this year instead of enrolling should be aware that the strategy could end up costing them more in the future, Jahnke said.

“As the years go on, penalties for not getting insurance are going to go up,” she said. “Maybe you can afford a penalty this year, but ultimately it’s going to become expensive not to have insurance.”


By the numbers

Number of people eligible to enroll in the Affordable Care Act: Nation 8,751,907; Texas 758,344

Number of people enrolled in the Affordable Care Act: Nation 4,242,325; Texas 295,025

Totals as of March 1

SOURCE: Kaiser Family Foundation

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com.

(7) comments

Dorothy Holt

Wonder if those they sign up will actually pay their insurance premiums once they see how much they are. What a complete disaster this ACA, aka Obamacare, is going to be to our country. After all, the nitwits had to pass it so they could see what was in it. Thank you, Nancy Pelosi-Frankenstein. What a foolish and factually ignorant woman to actually say those words. I weep for my country!

George Croix

I'm confused.
Back when the first wave of people lost their insurance that they could keep, period, the President and his handlers referred to that 6 million or so as 'a tiny sliver of the population', effectively declaring them inconsequential.
But , they then proceeded to gut their own 'law of the land' to avoid any further cancellations (yet....[sad]) that might interfere with the next election, by giving waivers and making unilateral delays as if there were, indeed, consequences.
Then today, they trumpet as a Huge Victory the supposed 7.1 million figure that magically appeared on an 'unprecedented last minute surge'...
If 6 out of over 300 is 'a 'tiny sliver' how exactly does 7.1 out of the same over 300 become 'huge'...?
Must be some more 'progressive' math.
[wink]

Lars Faltskog

Well, DottyOA and geocroix:

ACA is here to stay and will likely have similar properties to the Canadian system. By the short time you are in your assisted living home, we'll all have moved on to complain about something else. Didn't Houston pass the toll road proposals years ago, and they didn't know all that was "in it"? Well, now they have an infrastructure of toll roads, and without them there otherwise would be even more gridlock than they have now. It's called progress. Or, will y'all still be singing "Grandpa, Tell Me 'Bout the Good Ol' Days" when the piano player comes to the once-a-week assisted living afternoon music time?

Dorothy Holt

Your post just doesn't make any sense. Perhaps it does to you but it is very obvious, in fact perfectly clear, you have no idea what the Affordable Care Act is going to do to our health care. Canadian health care? Are you serious? Canadians are coming to the US for health care they have to wait for a year or longer to get. I have Canadian clients who left Canada and came to the USA to get away from the horrendous nationalized Canadian health care system. Educate yourself before you start comparing the ACA to a toll road (which is so darn irrelevant to the ACA), but a toll road is a choice for each and every driver, the ACA is not. Amazing the amount of ignorance (lack of knowledge) the American public has about the ACA. You,, sverige1, are a prime example of it. I weep for you and my country as you know not what is about to happen to our health care system and it will affect you just as much as the next person. Please wake up. Please!

Dorothy Holt

sverige1. I challenge you to review the ACA registration numbers and not what CNN or MSNBC tells you about it. The 7.1 million people who signed up were not all without insurance. A large percentage of them had lost their insurance because their employers dropped their hours below 30 hours/week or just dropped the health insurance benefit. Check it out and come up with an answer that has nothing to do with toll roads or singing songs. Do you have any idea how foolish it sounds when you write such nonsense about singing songs and toll roads that have absolutely nothing to do, in not any form feasibly possible, with the issue at hand? Can you answer it.... honestly?

Lars Faltskog

Response to DottyOA posted at 1:27 am on Fri, Apr 4, 2014:

Sakes alive, DottyOA -
If you haven't read "Do You Have These Symptoms" ad on the front page of newspaper, maybe you ought to. I'm merely expressing an opinion that can bring hope to this controversial subject, rather than admitting that our country is in defeat over it before it even has a chance to programize.

Now, in regard to my salient comparisons of the new health care program to toll roads, railroads, and interstate systems, we have to realize that in the infancies of those projects, many people also protested in mass volumes. Now, I am curious, are there really thousands of Canadians expatriating to here in the US? That's news to me. Interesting how that doesn't make the news since, I suppose, to many folks most of them are at least "the right color". hmmmmm, very interesting.

Now, your issue regarding the singing of songs, I can't help you with that. Maybe on your new ACA plan you can visit a specialist in the field of music phobia. As for folks paying their premiums, if so many of the ones who got "dropped" paid their premiums then, they likely could pay them on their new plan. I venture to say that many premiums will be lower. Mine are. With all of the predisposed visions of failure, y'all might want to invest in an inexpensive paperback copy of "The Power of Positive Thinking". The sun will come up tomorrow....

George Croix

Some pertinent info from that notoriously conservative news organization, the Associated Press, concerning yet more ACA deceptions, aside from the phony 7.1 million 'enrolled' prevarication.

"ObamaCare makes it more difficult to buy insurance year-round
Published April 04, 2014 Associated Press

Here's more fallout from the health care law: Until now, customers could walk into an insurance office or go online to buy standard health care coverage any time of year. Not anymore.
Many people who didn't sign up during the government's open enrollment period that ended Monday will soon find it difficult or impossible to get insured this year, even if they go directly to a private company and money is no object. For some it's already too late.
With limited exceptions, insurers are refusing to sell to individuals after the enrollment period for HealthCare.gov and the state marketplaces. They will lock out the young and healthy as well as the sick or injured. Those who want to switch plans also are affected. The next wide-open chance to enroll comes in November for coverage in 2015.
It's a little-noted consequence of President Obama's health care overhaul, which requires nearly all Americans to be insured or pay a fine and requires insurers to accept people with health problems.
The federal law doesn't prevent companies from selling policies to everyone all year. But insurers consider it too risky now that the law prohibits them from rejecting people in poor health.
"If you didn't have an open enrollment period, you would have people who would potentially enroll when they get sick and dis-enroll when they get better," said Chris Stenrud, spokesman for insurer Kaiser Permanente. "The only insured people would be sick people, which would make insurance unaffordable for everyone."
There wasn't much public discussion about people who prefer to buy policies outside the marketplaces, sometimes finding better deals or options more to their liking.
Health and Human Services spokesman Aaron Albright pointed to a cryptic note on the HealthCare.gov website: It says "in some limited cases some insurance companies may sell private health plans outside the marketplace and outside open enrollment" that satisfy the law's coverage mandate. It doesn't say how to find any companies doing that. Albright had no further comment.
Gary Claxton, a health law expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said it's "highly unlikely" that companies will offer such coverage after the deadline window fully closes. Some do still offer temporary plans, lasting from a month to a year. But those plans don't cover pre-existing conditions and don't get buyers off the hook for the law's tax penalty.

Gotta love it. The people who will, themselves, NEVER have to worry about health care, not only make you buy some that they say is the right kind, or be 'taxed' if you don't, but end up making the availability well so poisoned that you can only buy during certain times.
Period.

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