Austin nonprofits are trying to sign up as many people as possible before tonight’s deadline to apply for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Insure Central Texas has four enrollment centers in the Austin area. Program director Elizabeth Colvin says the demand for their services is exceeding their capacity; this morning they had 100 people lined up by the time they opened at 6 a.m.
The deadline to begin signing up is 11 p.m. tonight. Colvin advises people to at least start the application this evening, as those who do start then can finish the process at a later time.
“I encourage them to go on healthcare.gov and create an account and go through the identity verification process,” Colvin says. “That will get you in line by the deadline, and then when you get to the application – you want assistance, you are confused about the terminology or wondering why you’re not getting credits – come by and see us.” (That said, our colleagues at NPR note that glitches today could mean healthcare.gov has more last-minute shoppers than it can handle.)
Insure Central Texas has enrolled about 4,000 people. The group says it's likely to exceed its goal of enrolling 5,000. Its centers are open until 7 p.m. tonight, but Colvin advises people to come in sooner rather than later. She adds that those who are standing in line to start the process at the deadline will also be able to enroll.
“The administration has said this is like voting … as long as you are in line to vote by 7 p.m., you are allowed to vote. And so the administration is treating this process about the same,” Colvin says. “You have to have started the process by 11 p.m. tonight in order to be able to complete the process.”
Insure Central Texas will have their centers open on April 1-2, 5-7 to help those who started applications complete the process. They will also be open year-round between now and the next enrollment period. They will also be available by appointment to help people experiencing qualifying life events and need new insurance plans. Those life events can include losing a job, losing health insurance coverage and divorce.
Those who fail to sign up for insurance will pay a fine at tax time. The next open enrollment period runs from November 2014 through February 2015.