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Healthcare Deadline Extended as Rush to Enroll Continues

Monday is the official deadline for people to sign up to receive healthcare insurance under the Affordable Care Act when benefits first become available on January 1st. But late in the day, as workers in Central Arkansas rushed to get people enrolled, federal officials said that as long as people start the process, they'll have an extra 24 hours to complete enrollment.
LITTLE ROCK, AR -- Monday is the official deadline for people to sign up to receive healthcare insurance under the Affordable Care Act when benefits first become available on January 1st.

But late in the day, as workers in Central Arkansas rushed to get people enrolled, federal officials said that as long as people start the process, they'll have an extra 24 hours to complete enrollment. 

As we sat with certified "in-person assister" Danielle Evans, she talked about the process of helping people navigate the federal Healthcare.gov website.

"We got a lot of phone calls today just about how to enroll and where people can go to enroll," she said.

As the hours ticked down in the first major signup deadline of the Affordable Care Act, Evans and other assisters across Central Arkansas could tell there was a rush to access the online system.

"[It was] pretty busy on the website so we weren't able to get through," Evans said,

When we called the 1-800 number there was a backlog there as well.

"We are currently experiencing longer than normal hold times," the automated message said.

But Evans says she is eventually able to get her clients through, a huge triumph for people like the homeless man she helped get coverage earlier in the day at Little Rock's main library.

"He named off a bunch of issues that he was having health wise, and he just couldn't afford to go to the doctor," she said.

Insurance broker Greg Hatcher with The Hatcher Agency says signing up the poor and sick is a key part of healthcare reform.  But as deadlines for people to sign up approach, getting young, healthy people in Arkansas and across the nation to enroll will make or break the program.

"I just don't think they're there going to come and enroll," Hatcher said.  "I sit on the exchange board and hope they do, but the numbers are showing they're not."

As of November 30th, about 1,400 Arkansans had successfully enrolled into the federal healthcare exchange.
   
With the efforts leading up to the December 23rd deadline, supporters of the healthcare overhaul are hoping to see a big increase when new numbers are released.
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