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ACA site sees many seeking policies before midnight Tuesday deadline

Updated: January 26, 2014 6:36AM



Buying Christmas presents wasn’t the only thing consumers were rushing to do on Christmas Eve. Many consumers also showed up at various health centers and other sites to get health insurance.

Monday was supposed to be the last day people could buy one of President Barack Obama’s new health insurance plans that would kick in Jan. 1

But the deadline was extended until midnight Tuesday, because of the high volume Monday on the federally run, trouble-plagued health care website.

Some people still had trouble on HealthCare.com on Tuesday. The federal government said anyone who has had problems with the site should contact the Marketplace call center, (800) 318-2596, for individual assistance. The call center will be closed on Christmas and will reopen on Dec. 26. Consumers who still want to buy insurance after Tuesday will have until March 31 to enroll for policies effective as early as February.

On Tuesday, navigators said they saw a steady crowd of people who were looking to enroll in one of the Affordable Care Act’s new opportunities for health insurance. The law expanded the number of people who can get Medicaid and created online marketplaces, where people can buy newly created insurance plans, possibly with the help of tax subsidies.

“It’s busier than what we were expecting for Christmas Eve,” though not as busy as Monday, said Maura O’Hagan, medical coordinator for VNA Health Care. VNA had navigators at most of its eight locations.

Of the people who showed up at VNA’s locations, 80 percent qualified for Medicaid and 20 percent qualified to buy an insurance plan — which matched other anecdotal reports.

Alivio Medical Center, which has locations on the West Side, also reported high volumes of people on Christmas Eve. They weren’t bombarded with people looking to sign up, but it “was a steady flow,” said Antonia Gamez, a spokeswoman.

Healthcare.gov — the website where uninsured residents from Illinois and most other states can shop for new options of health insurance — received 2 million site visits Monday. The federal call center received more than 250,000 calls as consumers were rushing to complete their applications, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid said.

mjthomas@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MonifaThomas1



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