With Deadline Days Away, Push On To Sign People Up For Obamacare

NJ.com — January 22, 2016

By Susan K. Livio | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

TRENTON — With nine days left before the enrollment window closes for the year, 265,000 New Jersey residents have signed up for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act, a federal official said Friday.

A big recruitment drive is underway throughout all corners of the state to reach as many people as possible before the Jan. 31 deadline, said Jackie Cornell-Bechelli, regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The 265,000 people include both new customers and previous customers whose policies have been automatically renewed. That's a 23 percent increase from the 215,000 people who were enrolled in February 2015.

"In our experience, we are finding three years of messaging and educating around the Affordable Care Act is really working. The demand has been up," said Maura Collinsgru, Health Care Program Director at New Jersey Citizen Action, the lead enrollment recruiting organization.

Organizers are expecting a flood of applicants "over this next week - human nature being what it is people tend to wait until the last minutes," Collinsgru said.

With 20 public enrollment events going on every day until the deadline, "We will be out in force," Collinsgru said.

Three-quarters of people who signed up also qualified for tax credits to lower their premiums, while half also received assistance with other out-of-pocket costs, she said.

Still too many people — especially those under age 35 — are not aware financial assistance is available that has helped enrollees keep their monthly premiums costs to $100 or less, she said. Organizers will continue to stress that compared to the $695-per adult penalty uninsured people will have to pay at tax time, the cost of insurance is worth it.

"People are more interested and informed about the opportunities, although not necessarily about the details about how much financial assistance is available and how often individuals are qualifying for it," Collinsgru said.

"About 60 percent uninsured people are confused about tax credit or don't even know they are available," Cornell-Bechelli added.

Nationwide, there are 8.8 million people who are insured under Obamacare from the 38 states which rely on the federal insurance portal, HealthCare.gov to acquire coverage, Cornell-Bechelli said.

"People are really thinking about their coverage and seeing what is the best fit for them," she said.

Cornell-Bechelli acknowledged Medicaid enrollment so far is at 445,000 in the state, down 30,000. She surmised that many of those enrollees saw their income rise and no longer qualify for Medicaid.

As people are disqualified for Medicaid, state and federal officials have sent letters informing people they should go to the health exchange at HealthCare.gov "so they do not fall through the cracks," Collinsgru said.

To find a location providing enrollment assistance, go to covernj.org.

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