The official deadline to get insurance coverage and avoid a penalty under the Affordable Care Act is Monday. However, Barack Obama’s administration announced this week that those who ask for a little more time would get it.
Anyone who goes to healthcare.gov before the Monday deadline can click a “special enrollment” box to gain an extension. The administration if offering as an acknowledgement of the website’s early technical problems, as well as a pre-emptive solution in case the site cannot handle the increased traffic that is expected over the next few days. The amount of time those seeking an extension would get to enroll has not been determined, and administration officials said it would depend in part on how many people sign up for the extended enrollment period. Those who do not get coverage in the next few days, or request to be part of the special enrollment period, could face a financial penalty—of $95 or 1 percent of their total income, whichever is greater—when they file their 2014 taxes next year.
As of the end of February, 113,733 Illinois residents have purchased insurance under Obamacare, and another 210,000 received Medicaid coverage under the massive expansion, which is a key component of the president’s health care program. Traffic to Illinois’ jointly run state federal exchange has increased from about 10,000 unique visitors per day in February to 40,000 visitors per day this week. The state’s help desk has also seen a spike in calls. Illinois has extended hours for its call center, which will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. tonight, and from 7 a.m .to midnight on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. In-person assistance will also be offered throughout the state with some locations staying open until midnight this weekend. State officials say they expect to meet the enrollment goal of 143,000 people getting insurance through the market place by the end of this month. On the federal level, the administration expects to reach its target of 6 million enrollees by the end of the month. However, the goal was revised down from 7 million in September after the exchange got off to such a rocky start. For more on problems with the federal website and state websites, like Illinois's, that are linked to it, see the March 2014 Illinois Issues.)
Illinoisans who still want to enroll have several options. They can:
- Go to the state's website, getcoveredillinois.gov
- Go to the federal website, healthcare.gov
- Call the state's help desk at 1-866-311-1119
- Find a "navigator" or enrollment event for in-person assistance