TEMPLE — The deadline to sign up for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act insurance market place has been extended, sort of.
The official deadline is today, but those who start the application process qualify for the extension until April 15.
“The deadline has not fully been extended,” said Allyson McMillan, navigator coordinator at the United Way of Central Texas in Temple.
The new deadline applies to people who started the application, but were unable to finish it or select a plan because of technical issues, McMillan said.
“The online process has been slow and it does occasionally crash, but it has not been out for more than about 45 seconds at a time,” she said.
If someone is unable to start the process online, they should call 800-318-2596.
“They can do the application over the phone and then they can meet with me or another navigator after (Tuesday) and we can go over the different plans,” McMillan said. “They have to have started it first.”
McMillan doesn’t have the most updated numbers for enrollment in the area, but there has been an increase in the number of people applying over the past few weeks.
Those who haven’t qualified for available insurance coverage were referred to other health care programs.
Three navigators in the area are trained and certified through the Texas Department of Insurance and can sit down and assist in filling out the application for coverage. Another navigator received the training, has the federal certification and is able to answer questions for people who call in and request information over the phone.
The local navigators cover the same area as the Central Texas Council of Governments — Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam, Mills and San Saba counties.
Each application is different, depending on the complexity of the case, McMillan said.
“I can do a complete application for a single individual with steady income in 15 minutes,” she said.
A personal business owner with a family makes it more complicated.
The application process is the same online, on the phone or with the navigator, but selecting one of the 62 plans available in the area is what takes time, she said.
The navigators are booked up today, and won’t be able to fit additional people in their schedule. McMillan suggested people call 800-318-2596 and get the application started, determine tax credits they qualify for and write down their application ID number.
“After (Tuesday), we can sit down with them and hopefully pull up the application ID if they have that information and choose a plan,” McMillan said.
The federal call centers have longer wait times, but it’s worth it in order to get the process started today, she said.
The next opportunity to apply through the federal insurance market is Nov. 15.
Scott & White
It’s been an interesting process, Marinan Williams, interim president and CEO of the Scott & White Health Plan, said of the health exchange.
“I think many people were skeptical of the exchanges and the majority of our individual members renewed under the existing plan before Dec. 1,” Williams said. “They were allowed to keep their plan for another year if it was paid for before Dec. 1.”
At the same time, there are people selecting Scott & White Health Plan coverage through the exchange.
“We’ve seen an uptick in the last two weeks of people enrolling,” she said.
More than half of the people enrolling with Scott & White through the federal exchange are female and are a little bit younger — mid-30s — than the national average, Williams said.
“I think it’s going to take a while for everyone to gain trust and start using it,” she said.
President Barack Obama announced last week that more than 6 million Americans signed up for coverage through the new insurance markets, according to the Associated Press.
The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 3.14 million Texans are potential marketplace enrollees, but only 9.4 percent of that population enrolled.