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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A key deadline has arrived for thousands of uninsured Oklahomans who are seeking coverage under the federal health care law.
Monday marks the last day to purchase insurance plans through the federally operated health marketplace set up under the Affordable Care Act for those who want benefits to begin with the new year. In Oklahoma, 69,221 individuals selected a health care plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace plan between October 1, 2013 and the end of a special enrollment period on April 19.
Open enrollment began in November and ends Feb. 15. Residents can enroll in the health marketplace and renew or change their plans during this period.
HOW TO SIGN UP:
Consumers can learn about their options through the federal website, www.healthcare.gov. Oklahomans can view the various plans and prices that are available in their areas. A description of health care plans listing premiums, benefits, deductibles, co-payments and other details can be found at https://www.healthcare.gov.
Oklahomans can still sign up for coverage after Monday, but it will take effect later. Enrollments from Dec. 16 to Jan. 15 would take effect Feb. 1. Enrollments Jan. 16 to Feb. 15 would take effect March 1.
Of the 69,221 Oklahomans who have selected a plan, 56 percent are women and 44 percent are men, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website.
The website says 36 percent of Oklahoma health insurance enrollees are under 35, and 29 percent are between the ages of 18 and 34.
A total of 66 percent selected a Silver plan, while 24 percent selected a Bronze plan. The website states that 79 percent selected a plan with financial assistance.
A spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of insurance, Kelly Dexter, said the agency has no information on current enrollment numbers.
"Since the state of Oklahoma did not set up a state exchange, then we don't have anything to do with enrollment numbers," Dexter said.
Oklahoma has not expanded its Medicaid program under the federal health care law and as of July, only 13,526 Oklahomans have gained Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Program coverage since the beginning of the Health Insurance Marketplace's first open enrollment period in October 2013, according to the DHHS website.
If Oklahoma expanded Medicaid, an additional 123,000 uninsured people would gain coverage, the website states. The expansion would be paid 100 percent by federal funds for the first three years and federal funds would never fall below 90 percent of costs afterward. Across the nation, eight million more Americans are now enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP.
GETTING THE WORD OUT:
The Republican-dominated Oklahoma Legislature has generally resisted attempts to improve participation in the health marketplace, and state agencies do not promote it. GOP Gov. Mary Fallin rejected a Medicaid expansion that would have provided affordable insurance to many low-income Oklahomans. Consequently, some Oklahomans may have a difficult time finding key information about open enrollment under the federal health care act.
The most significant outreach effort is being managed by the Oklahoma Primary Care Association, which represents 19 federally qualified health centers, and the Little Dixie Community Action Agency. The statewide 2-1-1 program also provides information to the uninsured and connects them with marketplace navigators and assisters.
Other nonprofits are also getting the word out on open enrollment and helping to guide those living in hard-to-reach areas to sign up for a federal marketplace plan. Myron Anderson, health resource advocate manager for the nonprofit Morton Comprehensive Health Services, says his agency and others are holding forums and distributing brochures to educate residents about the federal health marketplace option.
Health Insurance Marketplace at https://www.healthcare.gov.