The Gainesville Sun
By Christopher Curry
The federal government has granted a limited extension to the Affordable Care Act enrollment period for people who attempted to sign up before the Feb. 15 deadline but were unable to complete their application.
The extension is for people who encountered the technical problems that plagued the HealthCare.gov website during the last weekend of enrollment or faced extended wait times trying to get through to the federal health marketplace call center during a pre-deadline rush, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The new deadline is now Sunday.
After an uneventful enrollment season as far as glitches go, an Internal Revenue Service function on HealthCare.gov used to confirm the income of a person signing up for coverage went down Saturday and blocked people from completing their applications.
At a “last chance” enrollment event Saturday at the Santa Fe College Center for Innovation and Economic Development near downtown Gainesville, 82 people signed in, but only 37 were able to complete the enrollment process because of the technical problems with the website.
“We got started, everything looked great and then the navigators and (insurance) agents got blocked,” said David O’Malley with the group Enroll America, one of the event’s organizers.
He said Enroll America volunteers and staff were now working the phones to get in contact with the people affected by the website’s technical woes last weekend and try get them to complete the enrollment process.
Seasonal navigators who assist people in signing up for health care coverage through the ACA also will be available during the special enrollment period.
The Epilepsy Foundation of Florida will have navigators available at its Gainesville office, 1000 NW Eighth Ave., through Sunday, and at the Tower Road and Millhopper libraries, said Mandy Hancock Anderson, the organization’s regional community development manager.
The Suwannee River Area Health Education Center, which hires navigators for the program overseen by the WellFlorida Council, also will have navigators available Wednesday to assist people at Health Street on Archer Road, on Thursday at the Library Partnership on Northeast 16th Avenue and on Friday at the library headquarters in downtown Gainesville.
Health and Human Services says the special enrollment period is open only to people who attempted to sign up for coverage but ran into the computer problems or the long wait times at the call center.
Eligibility will, in many cases, be determined by the honor system.
Health and Human Services released this statement on who will be able to sign up:
“Consumers need to attest, either by phone or through HealthCare.gov, that they tried to enroll by the deadline but experienced a technical issue that prevented them from completing their enrollment by February 15 or high volumes at the call center on February 13, 14 or February 15. While there will be evidence for most people that they tried to enroll, it will be hard to verify that a person tried the call center, waited, and didn’t get through. Moreover, people have to be truthful when applying for federal benefits: It is the law. As such, we are confident that attestation is an effective and efficient way to offer people in line coverage for a time-limited opportunity to finish the process.”
Up until the final weekend, HealthCare.gov had operated smoothly during the second enrollment period after some attention-grabbing problems during the 2013-14 enrollment time.
The website infamously malfunctioned at the start of the first enrollment period in October 2013 and then worked smoothly for months until problems again crippled it temporarily as the initial, six-month enrollment period wrapped up at the end of March 2014.
Navigator availability during Affordable Care Act special enrollment period through Sunday:
Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, 1000 NW Eighth Ave. Suite A 9 a.m.- 7 p.m. weekdays. 9a.m.-5 p.m. weekend
Health Street, 2401 Archer Road, Wednesday 12 p.m.-4 p.m.
Library Partnership, 1130 NE 16th Ave.Thursday 1 p.m.- 6 p.m.
Downtown Library, 401 E. University Ave Friday 1 p.m. -4 p.m.
Tower Road Library, 3020 SW 75th St. Wednesday, Friday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Sunday 1 p.m.-5 p.m.
Millhopper Library, 3145 NW 43rd St. Thursday and Saturday 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Sunday 1 p.m.-5 p.m.