Thousands of people still uninsured as deadline approaches

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – People who are still uninsured have until March 31 to sign up for health insurance under the law.

There are more than 800,000 Hoosiers living without health insurance. Neighborhood Health Clinics is an organization that’s helping people enroll in the Marketplace before the deadline. Staff at the clinic said they are busy, but not nearly as busy as they’d expect to be a little more than a week away from the deadline. Other than procrastination, people said they waited so long to sign up because they were trying to wait out the website glitches.

“A couple weeks ago I tried to log in on my own, and I couldn’t even get on the site,” Janis Hessler, who was enrolling Friday morning, said.

Hessler’s been uninsured for five years and was afraid she wouldn’t be able to afford the healthcare premiums, but she found out she was eligible for aid from the government.

“It’s wonderful because I had this huge fear of losing everything I had which isn’t that much…[because of] medical bills,” Hessler said.

However, if people do not sign up by the end of the month, they will have to pay a penalty when they do their taxes next year. The penalties vary for the first year but could include paying $95 per person in the family, $2,085 for a family, or one percent of a family’s gross income. The penalties still haven’t persuaded some to sign up because the punishment for the first year, in some cases, is still less than what they would be paying in premiums. However, people will continue getting fined for the next three years, and the penalty for the second year is around $300 per person.

There are also some issues with the process. People who have healthcare needs are signing up, but, seemingly healthy people are not.

“If the healthy people don’t get in and only the sick people get in, then the premiums are going to have to go up later because it’s going to be costly per person,” Mary Haupert, the CEO of Neighborhood Health Clinics, said. “You need the average.”

If people need help signing up, they can visit www.HealthCare.gov for a list of places nearby, or they can call Neighborhood Health Clinics at 260-458-2641 ext. 3757 to make an appointment.

People are advised to bring the following items with them to an appointment:
-Photo IDs for everyone in the house
-Some form of income documentation such as recent tax returns
-Social Security numbers and other personal information

If people do meet the March 31 deadline, coverage will start May 1.

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