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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

White House Extends 'Obamacare' Enrollment Deadline

All people have to do is check a box on the HealthCare.gov website to gain added time, report says

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One of the main objectives of the Affordable Care Act is expanding access to affordable health care options. The law led to the creation of the online marketplaces, or exchanges, where people in each state and the District of Columbia may compare health plans and sign up for coverage.

The Congressional Budget Office initially projected that 7 million people would sign up for health coverage in 2014. It later lowered its estimate to 6 million.

In 2012, an estimated 47 million Americans were uninsured, 2 million fewer than in 2010, according to a report released Tuesday by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that supports independent health care research. The reduction was likely due to a provision of the health reform law allowing many young adults to stay on their parents' insurance plans up to age 26, the report said.

Yet many uninsured people remain on the sidelines with the deadline for coverage approaching. Forty-eight percent of the uninsured aren't planning to look into the marketplaces or are unaware of them, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported.

"People seem to have a hard time believing that they're going to be eligible for the financial assistance that's available," said Katherine Hempstead, team director and senior program officer at the foundation. Other people aren't interested because they think their uninsured status will change as soon as they find a job, she said.

As the enrollment deadline draws nearer, health insurance advocates have been making a final push to make sure that people understand their options and get coverage.

"It's been very busy. A lot of our allies have been doing outreach into the community," said Terri Sterling, a director at the Idaho Community Action Network in Boise.

Idaho is one of the states where people use HealthCare.gov to shop for private insurance coverage. It's also one of 24 states that decided not to expand Medicaid in 2014, leaving 70,000 low-income Idahoans without options for coverage, Sterling said.

Families and individuals with incomes above the federal poverty level still have time to pick a marketplace plan.

People who make between 100 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level -- $11,490 to $45,960 for an individual and $23,550 to $94,200 for a family of four -- may qualify for federal tax credits to lower their insurance premiums.

Some may qualify for a reduction in their out-of-pocket expenses.

Once the enrollment deadline passes, most Americans won't have another chance to sign up for coverage until the next open enrollment period, which begins Nov. 15. Coverage purchased during that time won't take effect until 2015.

There is no cutoff date for enrolling in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Don't know where to start to look for coverage? Morrisey suggests that people do a little "Googling" to learn about their options and find a health "navigator" who can help them enroll.

"I think it would make sense to maybe stop by a library, maybe talk to your minister, talk to family members or friends who have insurance or have gotten coverage and what the process looks like and how to go about doing it," he said.

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