Coverage Countdown: Insurance deadline at midnight

By Tony Statz, Ruth to the Rescue producer, @RuthToTheRescue
Published On: Mar 31 2014 05:18:03 PM EDT
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On March 31, many Americans were scrambling to get health insurance coverage before the midnight deadline under the Affordable Care Act.

There were new technical glitches and customer service delays as people who waited until the last minute tried to get coverage.

The glitches came early in the day. The White House said technicians had fixed the 2nd glitch which Health and Human Services spokesman Aaron Albright said had affected people who were trying to create an account for a short period in the early afternoon. With the deadline looming, more than 100,000
people were using the site at the same time.

So far, more than 6 million Americans have signed up for health insurance, some of the policies heavily subsidized for lower income people. That figure met a revised goal set for the program after the web site was found to be nearly unworkable for weeks when the sign-up period began in October.

Extension Granted, But You MUST Start Process

The Obama administration announced an extension to the sign up deadline on March 25, but it's only available in certain circumstances. For most people, that means you must at least start the process before the midnight deadline. Then, if you run into technical problems or a delay, you would be allowed to finish the process after March 31.

"I can't imagine how fierce the criticism would be if we had an arbitrary cut off tonight and people half way through the process couldn't get health insurance," said White House Advisor Paul Schiliro.

What You Need To Know

Ruth to the Rescue checked with a health care navigator, one of the experts who's been trying to help people find the best coverage. Madiha Tariq of ACCESS said the best option is to finish your application before midnight if at all possible.

However, if you run into a delay on the government's website, she said its a good idea to call the 800-number to get your phone number registered in a database. That entry would show that you had tried to sign up before the deadline and were unable to complete the process.

If you are using the website and run into technical glitches, Tariq advised people to print a screen shot or take a photo of the screen to show that you were facing a technical problem. You may never need that proof, but she says it's better to have some evidence to back your claim. It looks like most people will have until mid-April to get their applications completed.

If you haven't signed up, visit the website www.healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596.

If you cannot prove you have health insurance coverage, you will face penalties come tax time in 2015. The fines are $95 for each uninsured person in your household or 1 percent of your household income, whichever is greater.

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