Advocates urge health insurance sign-up before March 31 deadline - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Advocates urge health insurance sign-up before March 31 deadline

NEW ORLEANS, LA - Monday, March 31 at midnight is the deadline to sign up for a health insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act.

"Deadline's Monday, so why wait until the last minute?" laughed Holly Gee, a self-employed repairwoman.

On Tuesday, Gee was still deciding on which plan she wanted.

"I went over to Daughters of Charity, and they have several people who help you look at the plans and I'm looking at them right now," Gee said. "I went yesterday, and I'm going to try to pick one."

"People are procrastinators," said New Orleans Director of Health Charlotte Parent. "We want to wait until the end, but this is just something too important to your family." 

According to the latest federal data, 45,561 Louisianans signed up for a plan through the Affordable Care Act between Oct. 1 and March 1.

Parent said the city had reached 73 percent of its goal in terms of the number of people signed up in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. She's hoping now for a final push from the procrastinators.

"The main thing we want to get to people is that, one, the site is easy to maneuver now, and yes the deadline for this ramp-up is March 31," Parent said. "If you don't take advantage of it by March 31, then the opportunity goes away until the fall."

President and CEO Thelma French and the certified advocates at Total Community Action are focusing final efforts on getting younger people signed up for health insurance.

"Between the ages of 18-35 we have the largest under-enrollment in the South, as I understand it - I think now in the nation, of people who are eligible for the Affordable Care Act but have not enrolled," said French.

She said one of the biggest challenges has been that many people who were used to the state Charity Hospital system haven't transitioned out of that mentality.

"People still believe that you can go to a hospital and receive services and not be billed or have to pay, but as all of our hospitals are now privately managed, there is going to be a requirement for insurance or prepayment before service is rendered," said French.

Monday is not only the deadline to sign up, but also to avoid a fee. The fee will amount to either 1 percent of yearly household income or $95 per person for the year, whichever is higher.

"An uninsured person would pay the penalty in 2015 when they file their 2014 federal income tax return," according to the website.

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