SURGE IN LAST-MINUTE ENROLLMENTS FOR OBAMACARE

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Could Obamacare provide impetus for a county hospital in East County?

By Miriam Raftery

December 29, 2013 (Washington D.C.) – Consumers signing up for  new healthcare options or “Obamacare” through Healthcare.gov rose seven-fold in December, when over 975,000 people enrolled.  From October 1 through December 24, a total of 1.1 million people signed up for the new health insurance marketplaces nationwide.  Over a million more signed up through state websites, bringing the total to two-thirds of the 3 million goal set by the White House.

Marilyn Tavenner, administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, called this a “welcome surge in enrollment as millions of Americans seek access to affordable heatlh care coverage,” adding hat the surge came in part because “we met our marks on improving HealthCare.gov.” She added that the site supported 83,000 concurrent users on December 23rd alone before the deadline to sign up for coverage starting January 1.

You can still sign up by January 15 for coverage that will start February 1.  In California, the website to learn about health exchange options in our state is https://www.coveredca.com/.  Nationally, the site is https://www.healthcare.gov.

The next challenge for the Obama administration will how the implementation of healthcare coverage rolls out.  Potential glitches could occur in the system if records of individuals signed up fail to be processed promptly, for example, leaving doctors to either require payment up front or trust patients who say that coverage is in place. 

Thus far the federal healthcare reforms have enabled many low income individuals to qualify for low-cost healthcare.  Though that’s still a small fraction of the 41 million Americans without health insurance, administration officials are hoping enrollment will continue to increase before the March deadline when mandates for people to have health insurance kick in.

The rollout has had flaws,  notably the initial website that proved to be unable to handle the large volume of visitors initially. President Barack Obama also drew criticism for not living up to a promise that people could keep their existing policies if they choose. The President extended the option to keep existing insurance for a year, but California opted not to allow the extension of existing plans. So some consumers have had existing plans cancelled and found themselves forced to pay higher rates for private insurance if their incomes were to high to qualify for subsidies under Obamacare plans.

In 2014, insurance plans will have to comply with standards set by the federal government, which could improve the quality of coverage for many Americans even if they did not purchase Obamacare.A rollout of federal healthcare options for businesses has been delayed by one year.

The prospect of many more East County residents having insurance raises an intriguing potential benefit.

Mark Arabo, president of the Neighborhood Markets Association representing Chaldean-owned businesses locally, told ECM that Supervisors in the past have balked at approving a County hospital in East County. Supervisors cited the high number of uninsured residents that they feared would hike up costs. 

“Now that everyone has to have insurance,” Arabo conculded, “We’re going to go back and ask them to reconsider that, because everyone should have access to affordable healthcare.”