Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Advocates Concerned about Truncated Health Plan Enrollment Period

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Advocates Concerned about Truncated Health Plan Enrollment Period

Article excerpt

When HealthCare.gov opens Saturday, consumers will have only three months to sign up for coverage, a time frame that some advocates say could hinder enrollment.

Open enrollment under President Barack Obama's health overhaul runs this year from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15 a significantly shorter period than last year's debut, which ran for about six months.

"It's going to be considerably shorter," said Ron Pollack, the executive director of Families USA. "And there are significant days that are holidays."

About 7.3 million people are enrolled this year in health coverage through HealthCare.gov. The Congressional Budget Office projects that 13 million Americans will be enrolled in 2015 coverage after the upcoming sign-up period concludes.

To meet those projections, enrollment officials will have to overcome the shorter enrollment period. The reduced sign-up season also gives advocates less time to locate the harder-to-reach populations that still lack health insurance even after the first round of enrollment.

And they are already starting from behind.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in October found that nine out of 10 people currently without health insurance were not aware the next enrollment period starts on Nov. 15.

The poll also found that two-thirds of the uninsured say they know "only a little" or "nothing at all" about the HealthCare.gov, and just over half are unaware the law might give them financial help to buy coverage.

Advocates say the lack of awareness about the premium subsidies is especially troubling, because many people won't even consider getting health insurance because they think its not affordable.

"The number one message that is most effective is understanding that subsidies are available," Pollack said.

But a cloud hangs over the subsidies for Missouri and Illinois residents, as well as those in 34 other states. …

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