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Affordable Care Act: Health insurance deadline nears

21,000 Georgians will lose federal exchange coverage unless missing info filed

POSTED: September 4, 2014 12:13 a.m.

Americans covered by health insurance through the federal exchange have until Friday to provide missing information or they will lose coverage Sept. 30.

As part of the ongoing rollout of the Affordable Care Act, the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace sent notices Aug. 12 to some 310,000 policyholders nationwide with a citizenship or immigration data-matching issue who have not responded to previous notices via mail, email and phone.

Some 21,000 of those were from Georgia, which has more residents facing the deadline than any of its neighboring states, except Florida, with 93,800. Officials don’t have a county-by-county breakdown of the numbers.

Renard Murray, regional manager for the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said Wednesday he hopes the numbers “have changed dramatically” since notices went out, but he couldn’t give updated figures.

“The challenge is we’re getting about 60,000 documents a day nationwide, so it’s hard to isolate how many are specifically attributed to Georgia,” he said.

Data issues can happen when the information reported in a consumer’s application, such as a Social Security or Permanent Resident Card number, is incomplete or different than the information the government has on file, officials have said.

A data inconsistency does not necessarily mean there is a problem with an individual’s eligibility for enrollment, just that additional information is needed to verify information provided in an application.

“However, if these supporting documents are not received, health insurance plans will be terminated in order to ensure program integrity and protect taxpayer dollars,” according to an Aug. 12 news release from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which falls under the Department of Health & Human Services.

To more quickly fix matters, consumers can download documents off the health care website, healthcare.gov, Murray said.

The heavily criticized health care law took effect Jan. 1. A period of open enrollment ended March 31.

Considered by many as President Barack Obama’s signature achievement, it requires that all Americans must have insurance or face tax penalties, known as the individual mandate.

Cheryl Christian, executive director of Good News Clinics in Gainesville, said her organization helped people initially apply for coverage, but that was the end of its role.

“Once they got on board, we helped them choose a physician and go there for their services once they had insurance,” she said.

Good News Clinics serves Hall County residents with no health insurance and an income within 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

“We are working on a brochure that will go out in late October or early November about the next enrollment period,” she said.

Americans can start enrolling Nov. 15 for insurance coverage in 2015.

In 2015, individual mandate penalties kick in, as those without insurance face “fees” of 1 percent of yearly income or $95, whichever is higher, when they file their 2014 federal taxes.

The fee rises each year. By 2016, the penalty is 2.5 percent of income or $695 per person, whichever is higher.



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