Today is the deadline for signing up for health insurance through the health insurance marketplaces. Actually it is the last day to get in line for getting health insurance. The registration can take place as soon as they can get to it.
I’m sure you know someone who doesn’t have health insurance. Tell them to call 800-318-2596 before midnight tonight. They don’t have to actually register today. Just call and tell the operator that they don’t have time to do it today.
That’s all they have to do to get in line. And if the phone is busy because of the surge in callers? They have done what is necessary to get in line. Seriously. They don’t even have to talk to someone. Just call.
That is the message I got from Dr. Pamela Roshell, Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Region 4. Below is a transcript of my radio interview with Dr. Roshell.
It is very clear that the Obama Administration is unofficially extending the enrollment period for people to get registered for health insurance. And rightfully so. After all the law’s intent was for an enrollment period of 6 months starting last October. But as we all know during the first couple of months it wasn’t really possible to enroll which justifies this unofficial extension.
Spread the word to anybody who does not have insurance. Simply call 800-318-2596 by midnight tonight. If someone answers just tell them that you want to get in line to enroll but you can’t today. If no one answers, you met the criteria for getting in line.
How easy is that?
Transcript of radio interview with Dr. Pamela Roshell on WGCV March 28, 2014.
Frank: On the phone, very pleased to have Dr. Pamela Roshell. Dr. Roshell how are you?
Dr. Roshell: Hi Frank, great to be with you.
Frank: Well thank you very much. So you are the Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, region 4. So tell everybody where region 4 is.
Dr. Roshell: Well region 4 is based out of Atlanta, Georgia but we are responsible for South Carolina and seven other southeastern states .
Frank: They gave you the dregs didn’t they?
Dr. Roshell: I love the South; I’m from South Carolina.
Frank: Ok so were now really, really, really getting down to the wire on people to sign up for Obamacare.
Dr. Roshell: We are. We are. Three full days left for enrollment and yesterday we announced that more than 6 million Americans have signed up for coverage through the market place and there is still time as I said the deadline is coming up in three days, March 31st is the deadline. So you can still enroll, you still have time. There are a variety of ways to enroll and in SC we partnered with United Way so citizens across the state can just dial 211 on their telephone and find out where an enrollment site is right in SC.
Frank: Now that’s cool. 211 to find out where you can get help enrolling.
Dr. Roshell: Help enrolling in person. We’re finding that a lot of people really want to sit down and talk to someone.
Frank: And they should.
Dr. Roshell: Yes.
Frank: This is not just buying something off the rack here.
Dr. Roshell: That’s right, that’s right. Some people though are going to healthcare.gov on their own. We had more than 1.5 million visits just on Wednesday alone and over 430,000 calls to the call center. So as I said call 211 in south Carolina and it’s just for South Carolinians they can find out where an enrollment site is or you can call the market place call center at 1-800-318-2596, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it’s important that you go ahead and start the application process. We’ve seen such a surge in demand over the last couple of days and
I’m sure it just will continue to surge over the next couple of days so consumers need to start the process.
Frank: All right so there was an announcement just the other day that the administration has said that those who have started or tried to start the process of enrolling through their marketplace but have not completed will have until April what to complete it?
Dr. Roshell: Well they will have some time to complete it and we just want them to really go ahead and start the process, and you bring up a good point, in line means that you have actually started the enrollment process and through no fault of your own you couldn’t finish it. So it could be that you tried to call the call center, just couldn’t get through because there are so many people calling. You could have not been able to find an opportunity for an appointment and you really need to sit down with someone. There could have been just some issue with the website perhaps, a variety of different issues. And then of course we do have just overall special enrollment period for individuals that have exceptional circumstances, like say we have a natural disaster or you have some serious medical condition or you happen to have some kind of enrollment system error. So the bottom line is you need to start the process.
Frank: But so there’s no hard deadline to finish although you encourage people to finish sooner than later but its not like April 10th it has to all be done by April 10th?
Dr. Roshell: Well we want everyone to finish as quickly as possible so that they can get May 1st coverage.
Frank: Sure, all right. Now let’s talk about what qualifies them for having this extended time period to finish the enrollment process. You mentioned that they tried to call they couldn’t get through. What kind of documentation do they need to have for them to be eligible to go beyond the March 31st deadline?
Dr. Roshell: You know they will just have to self-attest. On the healthcare.gov website if they go through healthcare.gov on their own, or if they call the call center, they would just explain their circumstances. That they have to make a statement, they are telling the truth, that they had an extenuating circumstance and so that is all really the documentation they need. They should just keep what they have so when, when I say keep what they have, when they call the call center for example they need to be able to explain I tried to enroll on the 30th, I’ve been trying to and couldn’t get through, this is what my situation is. So they really do need to at least write down their own issues, what was going on with them and then they have to declare at the end of the application that what they’re saying is the truth and that attestation is already a part of the marketplace document anyway. Everything you’re saying is true. It’s already a part of the application process.
Frank: And I’m talking with Dr. Pamela Roshell. She is the Regional Director for region 4 for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services based out of Atlanta, takes care of South Carolina. Dr. Rochelle this really sounds like we’re setting ourselves up here for millions of people across this country being able to continue the process past March 31st.
Dr. Roshell: Well you know Frank, when you stand in line for example to vote we allow everyone who is in line to continue the process and we just want every American that has tried and through no fault of their own to actually get covered and complete the process and we just want to do all that we can to ensure that the Americans that have started this process and through no fault of their own can finish the process.
Frank: Ok all right, well this all sounds good will give those numbers and everything at the end of the interview here but I wanted to talk about how you all assess how South Carolina is doing.
Dr. Roshell: Yes, well we’ve had over 55,000 south Carolinians to already enroll as of March 1st. I think that that really does speak well of the need for this marketplace insurance, and affordable insurance. I’ve spoken to South Carolinians that have plans for as little as 1 cents a month, 25 cents a month, $25 a month. I have a family of four that has a plan for $600 a month but they were previously paying $1,500. So it really is affordable, if nothing else you really just need to check it out. If you already have a private plan and compare the plans, see how the cost lines up because of course there are opportunities to help you pay for your premium and the majority of South Carolinians that have signed up over 90% of them received financial assistance.
Frank: So, all right did we meet your expectations for South Carolina compared to the rest of the country?
Dr. Roshell: Well yes, every person that has signed up we’re glad that they’ve signed up. We know that health insurance provides piece of mind, we know that it can avoid financial crises from mounting medical debt and so we are delighted that South Carolinians are enrolling. We are delighted that they have enrolled 55,000 of them. There is still more time. There are of course still uninsured South Carolinians that have not enrolled so I am just so glad to have this opportunity to let everyone in South Carolina know that there is still time, that you should check out the market place but you need to do so by March 31st.
Frank: All right, well I can’t pin you down on that. How do we compare to Alabama? Louisiana? I mean are we any better than any of those people?
Dr. Roshell: Well you know everyone has different enrollment. They’re not all exactly the same of course. Alabama, South Carolina, of course Florida. 400,000 Floridians have enrolled. In Georgia over 200,000. So just by the enrollment report anyone can look at it and if they wanted to make a comparison just numerically to see how the states line up you can of course do that. But again we are just wanting South Carolinians that are uninsured to get signed up.
Frank: So, all right anyone out there listening. Yourself, your family member, your friends, somebody at your church that you know has not started the enrollment process pick up the phone and what number are they going to call Dr. Roshell?
Dr. Roshell: They can call 211 and that will give them information about local assistance in their cities. They can actually enroll over the telephone if they dial 1-800-318-2596. Of course they can go to healthcare.gov the website is working well. And they can go and take a go at signing up on their own.
Frank: Or get some help from some of the navigators but call 211.
Dr. Roshell: Call 211, your local united way 211 then you can get the help of a navigator.
Frank: Very good. Dr. Pamela Roshell, thank you very much. It’s been a tireless task to get this thing implemented and congratulations but were not done yet.
Dr. Roshell: We’re not done, March 31st is the deadline. Sign up.
Frank: Thank you Dr. Roshell