EDITORIAL: Health insurance sign-up deadline is just days away

FresnoMarch 27, 2014 

The state exchange, Covered California, is in "all hands on deck" mode as the deadline for signing up is only days away.

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

The uninsured have four days to sign up for health insurance, or pay a penalty on their 2014 taxes.

With the penalty, they get nothing but a hole in their pockets. With insurance, they are covered if they break a leg or get sick. Still, many people have waited until the last moment to act.

The state exchange, Covered California, is in "all hands on deck" mode, but concerned that a surge in the final days could result in long wait times — or abandoned applications.

Earlier concerns about low enrollments among the Latino population now have shifted to the African-American population.

The vast majority of us who have insurance should reach out to family and friends who don't have coverage and urge them to go online, pick up the phone or go in person to get enrolled.

Monday's deadline exists for a reason, to ensure that people don't only sign up for insurance when they are sick or injured. That protects the risk pool, balancing healthy and sick people, and helping economic viability.

But what if people can't get through online or by phone? The best times are early in the morning and later in the evening. But that's no guarantee. The best option may be in-person enrollment. Go to the Covered California website and click on the big yellow button, "Find Local Help." Type in your zip code and get a list of sites where you can apply. Clinica Sierra Vista, for example, has locations throughout Fresno and Kern counties.

The California Association of Health Plans told The Sacramento Bee's editorial board that insurers so far are pleased with enrollment numbers.

But they won't know until next year how healthy or sick the pool is. They will have to wait to see what claims come in.

Don't expect that to deter partisans on April Fools Day from declaring the first six-month enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act either a glaring failure or a resounding success. It is neither.

Covered California still is ironing out call center and Internet issues. And there's still a time lag if applications have missing elements or incorrect information. It may take some people until mid-April to get an invoice and an insurance card.

These all are problems that can be worked out to improve the next enrollment period — November 2014 through February 2015.

The doomsayers simply are off-base — as they were in proclaiming unworkability and opposition after Medicare and Medicaid. Both programs have kept millions of Americans free from ruinous medical expenses, and have been modified over time to meet new needs and ensure solvency.

 

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