The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 27, 2013

Deadline past, health sign-ups go on

Randy Griffith

JOHNSTOWN — A last-minute media blitz and 24-hour “grace period” on Monday brought a rush of last-minute enrollments for health insurance through the beleaguered website.

Many contacted federally funded health care navigators to help them enroll in time for coverage to begin

Jan. 1, said Lynn Keltz, who oversees the navigators’ program in Pennsylvania.

“We were very busy last week and on Monday,” Keltz said. “There were lots of people calling.”

There was a record amount of traffic on on Monday, The New York Times reported.

There may still be an option for those who were not successful in completing enrollment, she added, pointing to a blog posting on the site.

“Even though we have passed the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline for coverage starting Jan. 1, we don’t want you to miss out if you’ve been trying to enroll,” the Obama administration said in the blog posting on the website.

The blog goes on to say that those who can prove that website problems prevented them from meeting the deadline would be granted an extension, if they contact the federal marketplace at 1-800-318-2596.

“Tell our customer service representative that you’ve been trying to enroll and explain why you couldn’t finish by the deadline,” the blog says. “They can tell you what you can do to finish your enrollment and still get covered for 2014.”

The deadline was primarily a concern for those whose existing health insurance did not meet standards of the Affordable Care Act, Keltz said. Many people with noncompliant policies were notified their insurance would be canceled as of Jan. 1.

People who do not have insurance still have until March 31 to enroll. Their policies just won’t go into effect until later, Keltz said.

“It is still going to be a good thing for them to have health insurance in February,” Keltz said.

Anyone who begins and completes an application today, for instance, would be covered on Feb. 1. If they wait until March 31, coverage begins May 1.

Under the Affordable Care Act, most adults will pay a penalty of $95, or

1 percent of income if they don’t have health insurance coverage in 2014. The penalty rises to $695, or 2 percent of income, by 2016.

Keltz said it has been gratifying to help people sign up for health insurance for the first time in their lives.

“We have had such an interesting group of clients,” she said. “They are working people and this is an opportunity for them.”

Those contacting navigators have included recently unemployed people, immigrants and those in working several part-time jobs.

“I found this aspect of the job very enlightening: Meeting people from different backgrounds and situations,” Keltz said.

Randy Griffith covers health care for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at