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Post Health Care Deadline, Officials Say More Than 7 Million Enrolled

As the March 31st deadline for Americans to enroll in health care has come and gone, early estimates indicate that more than 7 million Americans successfully signed up for coverage, despite problems and long wait times.

Sherry Hay, UNC Family Medicine Director of Community Health Initiatives, says her department and community partners have been working to help locals sign up for health care since open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act began on October 1 of last year.

On Monday, Hay says UNC Family Medicine was still taking calls and answering people’s questions about enrolling for health care.

“Through the month of March, we tried to do a variety of events— some more global type of community events with other partners such as UNC General Internal Medicine and others in the community, to scheduling patients around their medical appointments here at family medicine to see a certified application counselor,” Hay says.

The last-minute rush before Monday’s midnight deadline was a headache for some, as people reported call wait times of more than two hours and constant glitches with the HealthCare.gov website. Such problems have plagued the system since its debut.

“During these tight times when we are all dependent on the system, it is really frustrating, and people were frustrated by that when it didn’t operate as it should,” Hay says.

Still, federal officials estimated that about 2 million Americans were able to successfully enroll in the two weeks leading up to the deadline.

According to data released in February, Hay says it was estimated that more than 200,000 North Carolinians had enrolled through the federal health care exchanges.

In 2013, 1.5 million people in North Carolina were uninsured.

“It has been an interesting change in healthcare, one of the biggest in decades. There was no state agency that was necessarily deemed the agency to be responsible for the change,” Hay says.

All people, with few exceptions, are required to have health insurance. People who are already covered by health insurance through a private provider are not required to change coverage.

Citizens who can afford health insurance but did not purchase it by the March 31 deadline will be fined $95.

However, the enrollment period has been extended for those who began the application but were unable to finish.

“The Obama Administration did release that if someone had started the process by midnight [on March 31st], they will have until April 15th to complete the application process,” she says.

Now that this open enrollment period has ended, Hay says UNC Family Medicine and its partners will regroup, assess what went well and what didn’t in helping to get people signed up and focus on the next open enrollment, which begins in November and runs through February of 2015.

http://chapelboro.com/news/national/post-health-care-deadline-officials-say-7-million-enrolled/

March 31st Deadline For Health Insurance Is Coming

As the March 31 deadline to get coverage is fast approaching, about 391,000 North Carolinians have signed up for an Obamacare health insurance plan through the government-run online market place, according to federal officials.

Dr. Renard Murray is the Regional Administrator for the Centers for Medicare And Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency running the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov.

Murray says more than 5 million people across the country have signed up for health insurance through the marketplace, though he did not say how many were previously insured.

Through HealthCare.gov, people can find out what health care coverage plans are available, and they can also select a plan and fill out the application form online.  Applicants will have to pay a premium to begin coverage.

Open enrollment ends on Monday, March 31, 2014. Americans have until then to decide what plan they feel is best for themselves and their families.

“We don’t want people who are uninsured or those who know individuals who are uninsured to miss that deadline because once it closes on March 31st, it is not going to open again until November of this year, and coverage will not start until January of 2015,” Murray says.

All people, with a few exceptions, will be required to have health insurance. If you already have health insurance through a private provider, you are not required to change your coverage.

Citizens who can afford health insurance, but do not purchase it by the deadline, will be charged a fine.

“The actual penalty is $95 or it is one percent of your adjusted gross income. That is paid in 2015 when you file your 2014 tax returns. You are required to have coverage in 2014,” Murray says.

People can also reach the HealthCare.gov Call Center at 1-800-318-2596, a line which is open 24/7. A representative will be available to walk consumers through the enrollment process.

“If you call the Call Center, you can find local help,” Murray says. “There are local representatives within the communities of North Carolina that are able to help people get enrolled in the marketplace. You can actually find local help by going to the website or calling the Call Center.”

Murray explains that people with pre-existing conditions can sign up through HealthCare.gov.

“It doesn’t matter whether you had an illness five, six, seven years ago. And also through the Marketplace, there are tax credits that can defray the cost of insurance. We are finding people who are finding plans possibly for less than $10 a month.”

A revised estimate by the Obama Administration predicts that 6 million Americans will enroll in health plans sold on the exchanges by the March 31st deadline.

http://chapelboro.com/news/national/march-31st-deadline-health-insurance-coming/

HealthCare.gov Update

Obama to focus on positives of health care law

WASHINGTON — A day after his administration said healthcare.gov handled hundreds of thousands of visitors, President Barack Obama today will highlight people who have been helped by his health care reform law.

They’ll join the president at White House event. He’s also expected to charge that Republicans want to strip away benefits without offering an alternative.

 

Updated healthcare.gov gets mixed reviews

FORT LAUDERDALE — Consumers are reporting a mix of successes and failures as they try logging onto the updated healthcare.gov site.

Brokers and online assisters in Utah say three of every four people who want to sign up for coverage on the federal government’s online exchange are succeeding within an hour of logging in. Navigators in Wisconsin, Illinois, Alabama and North Dakota reported vast improvement, while staffers in South Florida and Iowa were stymied by glitches on the federal website, which is serving 36 states.

About 750,000 had visited the site by Monday night — about double the traffic for a typical Monday. By 10 a.m., with about 30,000 visitors and growing error messages and response times, federal health officials deployed a new queue system.

http://chapelboro.com/news/national/healthcare-gov-update/

Sen. Hagan Approval Slipping in Wake of Obamacare Web Launch

Raleigh – The failed launch of the Obamacare website is acting like gravity for the approval ratings of democrats in Washington D.C.

***Listen to the Story***

Senator Kay Hagan’s approval ratings are changing, but Public Policy Polling Analyst Jim Williams says they’re not going the direction the Hagan administration would prefer.

“We had found Kay Hagan with a small, but consistent lead throughout most of this year,” Williams says, “We’re finding now that it’s really kind of crept into a statistical tie at this point.”

The poll shows Hagan in a dead heat with her prospective 2014 opponents; coming in no more than three points ahead of state House Speaker Tom Tillis, Heather Grant, and Rev. Mark Harris. And she’s trailing one point behind Greg Brannon.

So what’s the force behind the trend?

“That stems probably from the botched roll out of the Obamacare website,” says Williams.

The website has been a nightmare for the faces of the Democratic Party since healthcare.gov opened its marketplace for federal health insurance on October 1.

“Obama’s approval rating in September was 48 percent approve, 29 percent disapprove,” Williams says, “Now it’s down to 43 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove.”

Williams says North Carolinians have responded negatively to the health care plan they were already skeptical of in the first place.

“Obamacare has never been particularly popular in North Carolina, but now only 38 percent of voters say they approve of it, compared to 48 percent who disapprove,” Williams says.

“Even worse 69 percent of voters say its rollout has been unsuccessful so far.”

The 2014 senate election is still a year away. Williams says there’s a large group of undecided voters who could come to Hagan’s rescue.

“The race is sort of unformed as far as the senate race,” Williams says, “A lot of the folks who either are running or may run are not well-known to the voters yet; so that’s why you’re seeing high numbers of undecided voters.”

Senator Hagan originally supported the Affordable Care Act. But she announced Tuesday that she is asking for an investigation of the failed website launch.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/sen-hagan-approval-slipping-in-wake-of-obamacare-web-launch/

Some Warn Public Not To Panic Over Obamacare Glitches

CHAPEL HILL – As the Obama administration is scrambling to fix major malfunctions in the online health care market place, efforts are being made here in Chapel Hill to help people sign up and avoid the confusion.

Sherry Hay, Director of Community Health Initiatives at UNC Family Medicine, has been helping to lead community events, such as phone banks and informational forums, to educate people about the Affordable Care Act.

Since its launch on Oct. 1, the HealthCare.Gov site, the online market place through which consumers can enroll in health care, has been plagued with problems.

President Barack Obama publicly acknowledged on Monday that the new health care law’s website hasn’t been functioning as it should, but he insisted that Americans should still register for Obamacare, despite the technical problems.

Hay said she alarmed about the misinformation circulating in the media.

“One of the most concerning things is [the notion] that there will be someone in Washington making a decision about their health care, in lieu of that decision being made with their primary care provider,” Hay said. “That is absolutely not correct information.”

At UNC Family Medicine, Hay said she and her team have been helping their patients enroll through the market place.

“So yes, it is frustrating. I understand that, but it is coverage that provides you access. Hopefully in the long term, you’ll see a quality increase and also see our costs go down.”

Hay said the Affordable Care Act is more than just the market place and that the program has many benefits.

“One is making prevention a reimbursable service for Medicare recipients. Prevention, particularly for our older population, for all of us is important. Those many things that the act covers are critical to our long-term health.”

In addition to the government website, applicants can enroll by phone or by mail.

People can call 1-800-318-2596, a line which is open 24/7. A representative will be available to walk consumers through the enrollment process.

Hay explained a new tool has been created on the website to outline which plans are available by state.

Obama pledged Monday to recruit the “best and the brightest” to rectify HealthCare.gov’s technical problems.

“Yes, there have been some problems, but the extent of the law is well worth sometimes what changes bring—which are a few bumps in the road.”

Local Health Care Exchanges Informational Events:

The League of Women Voters is holding a community event Saturday at 10:00 a.m. in the Hillsborough Public Library.

Get Covered America is holding an events nationwide as part of “Treat Yourself To Coverage.” Information sessions will be happening in the Triangle and across the state.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/some-warn-public-not-to-panic-over-obamacare-glitches/