Healthcare deadline is getting close

03/18/2014 5:42 PM

03/18/2014 5:43 PM

With just 13 days left to sign up for health insurance coverage for 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, Texas’ enrollment numbers are lagging behind other large states, which is quite troubling considering this state has the most uninsured people in the country.

The lower-than-expected sign-up figures — just over 295,000 at mid-March — are due to several factors: the pathetically poor roll-out of the ACA website; many residents simply not understanding the insurance products or the costs; and a deliberate attempt to sabotage “Obamacare” by Gov. Rick Perry and other state officials by imposing roadblocks to “navigators” authorized to educate people about the ACA.

The United Way of Tarrant County was one of the entities chosen by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services to hire and train people to assist Texans in signing up for insurance. The local United Way received the largest grant in the state ($5.9 million) and was the lead organization of 16 partners, including the city of Houston.

While the overall demand the last two or three months has been very good, United Way is not close to its original goal of reaching 55,000 people in one-on-one visits and 450,000 through community events, said President and CEO Tim McKinney. Those were “contact” goals, not enrollment goals.

By the end of February, navigators had met one-on-one with about 22,800 people, and between 150,000 and 170,000 through organized events, he said.

In addition to the roll-out obstacles in October and November, McKinney said, meetings with potential enrollees are taking much longer because so many consumers don’t understand insurance.

Things have picked up considerably since December 1. In fact, on Tuesday afternoon all navigators were busy, McKinney said.

That’s a good sign, but because the processing of applications can take seven to 10 days, McKinney urges anyone eligible to enroll in the market place to do so this week if they want to be insured by April 1.

John Peter Smith Hospital officials also have warned that those who seek services under its JPS Connection must take full advantage of other sources of assistance, including subsidized coverage under the ACA.

March 31 is the deadline, so there is no time to waste.

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