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Americans sprint to get ACA coverage before deadline.

Byline: The Washington Post

Consumers jammed call centers and enrollment offices in the final sprint toward the Friday deadline in most of the country to get Affordable Care Act health plans for 2018, defying months of naysaying by President Donald Trump about the laws insurance marketplaces.

In several states, enrollment helpers reported a crush of interest in recent days. Some navigator organizations, which help people sign up, received more requests for appointments than they could accommodate a consequence of an enrollment season just half as long as the past three years time frame and large cuts by federal officials in grants to those groups.

"I could have really used the extra $900,000," said Jodi Ray, project director of Florida Covering Kids and Families, which received $5.8 million a year ago, more than any other organization. "We could have used the extra staff."

"You hang up from one call, and you get another," said Julia Holloway, who directs the navigator program at Affiliated Service Providers of Indiana. The state lost 82 percent of its anticipated funding, more than anywhere else. And with in-person assistance now scarce, Holloway said one of her only remaining navigators was staffing the phone line to try to resolve as many callers questions as possible.

Since Thursday, people calling federal call centers in the 39 states that use the HealthCare.gov website consistently got a message asking them to leave their contact information and await a call back, according to officials of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. They will be allowed to complete their insurance applications, even if they are contacted after the deadline of midnight Pacific time.

By late Friday afternoon, however, HealthCare.gov itself had not become so crowded that consumers were being diverted into online waiting rooms as occurred on the deadline day for ACA coverage each of the federal insurance exchanges past four years.

Navigators said the website functioned relatively smoothly this year, with sporadic and minor glitches and slowdowns nothing like the profound defects that stymied insurance-shoppers when the laws marketplaces first opened in the fall of 2013.

This fifth year posed a test of the marketplaces staying power as the boosterism of the Obama administration gave way to Trumps vocal hostility and persistent efforts by a Republican Congress to dismantle many core features of the 2010 health care law.

On the final day, CMS tweeted encouragement for Americans to sign up by the deadline. By the most recent count released by the agency, nearly 4.7 million people had signed up as of last weekend in the states using HealthCare.gov. That number did not include current ACA customers who will be automatically renewed by the government after the enrollment period.

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Title Annotation:Nation_
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Dec 16, 2017
Words:454
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