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Deadline To Enroll For Coverage On Healthcare.gov Looms

Federal, Local Officials Urge Consumers To Enroll For Program Trump Wants To Repeal

Shamane Mills/WPR 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director Kathleen Falk said about 66,000 people in Wisconsin signed up in the first month of open enrollment, which was from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30. Nationally, she said there was a surge of enrollees the day after the presidential election.

Falk said around 100,000 people signed up across the country Nov. 9. “So there’s been an enormous interest, enthusiasm and enrollment,” she said.

Falk spoke Monday at a Madison library, one of several locations in the city where federal navigators are helping consumers sign up for coverage. When asked about Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, with no immediate replacement, Falk deferred, saying that’s an issue for policy makers in Washington, D.C. But Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said enrolling sends a message.

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“The more people we get enrolled, the more confident we are that it will be impossible to stop this program and to create a period where people will be without insurance,” Soglin said.

During a press event scheduled for Tuesday, Milwaukee officials are also expected to encourage people to sign up for coverage. Thursday is the deadline to enroll for coverage beginning Jan. 1.

In 2016, Milwaukee won the White House’s Healthy Communities competition for having the nation’s biggest jump in health coverage.

In Wisconsin, Falk said there are an average of 44 plans for consumers to choose from. With tax credits to help pay for premiums, she said seven out of 10 Wisconsin consumers will be able to find coverage for $70 or less.

As Republicans consider a replacement for the ACA, Falk touted popular provisions like coverage for everyone, even those with pre-existing conditions.

She said the ACA changed insurance, not only for those buying coverage on the marketplace. Young adults can stay on their parents policy until age 26, there are no lifetime limits on coverage and insurers can’t charge women more than men.

“So the Affordable Care Act has made our insurance coverage better for the rest of us as well,” Falk said.

In Dane County, there are 30,000 people who lack insurance, said United Way President and CEO Renee Moe.

“We know that costs are a big barrier for those who aren’t signed up and that’s why we’re in our fourth year of Health Connect,” Moe said.

Health Connect helps bridge the gap between those who don’t qualify for Medicaid and may not be able to get federal subsidies. Moe said it’s aimed at individuals at or above the federal poverty level. Since the program began in 2013, she said it’s helped 1,700 families afford health insurance.