As Affordable Care Act Deadline Looms, Sebelius Makes Pitch for

Photo: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Photo: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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On Jan. 1, a major piece of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul will go into effect. In order to get coverage by the first under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, people must enroll by Dec. 23.

It’s an important deadline. That’s why Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is trying to get the word out. The cutoff was extended to Dec. 23 after the federal exchange website experienced some highly-publicized problems.

Sebelius says she understands the frustration that’s out there, but encourages people to give the site another try.

“It’s a very, very different experience," she said. "Coming through is far easier, it’s more consumer friendly, people basically if they have their information ready and available can choose a plan in 20 to 30 minutes from start to finish.”

The federal health secretary adds that the logistics on the back end of the enrollment process have also been revised. In October and November, Sebelius says there was a disconnect between the enrollee and the insurance provider.

"The information that we have about who’s enrolled we actually have sent to individual insurance companies to make sure that if we have Betty Smith from Cuyahoga County, they have Betty Smith from Cuyahoga County, and match them one at a time," she said.

Sebelius urges that choosing a plan and completing the application on the federal exchange is just part of the enrollment process. The final step is getting the first premium payment to the insurance company by the end of the month.

“The consumer doesn’t pay the federal government," she said. "It really is we’re just helping them get to their own insurance company.”

Sebelius is also reminding people that the website can connect eligible Ohioans to Medicaid benefits.

“They don’t have to figure out what they’re eligible for," she said. "They can come into the website, and if their income qualifies them for Medicaid, we’ll make sure that their information gets to the Ohio Medicaid office, and they can get enrolled in Medicaid coverage or enroll their children in the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

Open enrollment for the federal exchange is available through March of 2014. So if someone misses the Dec. 23 but enrolls by mid-January, then they can qualify for coverage on Feb. 1.

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