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State urges residents to buy health insurance

Dec. 23 deadline looms for 2014 coverage
Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf gives an update on the federal health insurance marketplace. BY KARA NUZBACK
December 20, 2013

The deadline is fast approaching for Delaware residents to buy or change their health coverage in time for the New Year.

Nearly 800 Delaware residents have already selected an insurance plan through the federal marketplace and paid the first month’s premium said Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf.

“Traffic at the federal marketplace has been consistently gaining momentum,” she said.

At a presentation before the Delaware Healthcare Commission Dec. 16 in Dover, Landgraf noted nearly 3,000 Delaware residents have been correctly identified as eligible for Medicaid coverage so far.  Jim Grant, communications coordinator for the marketplace said the state expects up to 30,000 Delaware residents will be newly eligible for Medicaid in 2014.

When the online marketplace was unveiled in October, numerous technical glitches surfaced.  The website was not able to process the number of users attempting to access healthcare eligibility, and some residents were flagged as eligible for Medicaid coverage, when in reality their income was too high, Landgraf said.

As of Nov. 30, Healthcare.gov showed major signs of improvement, including the capacity to process up to 800,000 users day, Landgraf said.

“Enrolling on Healthcare.gov is becoming a more positive experience,” Landgraf said.

ChooseHealthDE.com is a source of information for Delaware residents looking to buy health insurance.  The website also acts as a portal to Healthcare.gov, the federal marketplace.

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance providers must meet 10 essential health benefits, including outpatient care, emergency room coverage, inpatient care, maternity, mental health and substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, physical and occupational therapy, lab tests, preventative services and pediatric care.

Qualified healthcare providers in Delaware include Coventry, Delta Dental and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The deadline to sign up for health insurance is Monday, Dec. 23, for the insurance to take effect Wednesday, Jan. 1.  Uninsured individuals must sign up for coverage by March 31, 2014 to avoid a penalty fee.

The penalty for 2014 will be $95 or 1 percent of an individual’s income, whichever amount is greater.  The penalty will increase significantly over the next two years.

Landgraf said another open enrollment period would begin in November for insurance coverage in 2015.

Marketplace guides will host several events this weekend to assist individuals in enrolling for health insurance.  Enrollment sessions will be held 4-8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20 at Sussex Technical High School in Georgetown; 1-6 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21, at Milford Library on S.E. Front Street in Milford; and 4-6:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 22, at Dover Public Library on Loockerman Plaza in Dover.

For a complete list of enrollment events, go to ChooseHeathDE.com.

Landgraf said insurance shoppers who have been incorrectly identified as eligible for Medicaid or have experienced other problems signing up for coverage could contact the Advanced Resolution Center at 800-318-2596.