Health care deadline approaching: What does it mean?


DETROIT – It's been a long, sometimes bumpy, road for Americans looking to get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Open enrollment launched in October of last year, and technical glitches slowed efforts to get more Americans signed up. Now, we're in the final weeks of open enrollment with a March 31st deadline just weeks away. 

Mohammed Janny is a father of five, a business owner, and a satisfied customer  who recently bought coverage under the Affordable Care Act. 

"As an individual I don't panic. I take care of things," Janny told Ruth to the Rescue. 

Janny didn't panic even though he signed up for a new insurance plan just weeks before the March 31st deadline. He admits he waited for all the glitches to come to an end, but says he was happy with the experience of buying new coverage.    

"I don't feel I have to worry about anything at this point....as far as health insurance or God forbid anything serious goes wrong," he said.  

Beware Potential Penalties 

If you don't have coverage, you do need to worry about a few things. If you're not enrolled in a plan by March 31st, you will not be able to get coverage until next year. Also, you will  face a penalty of $95 per uninsured person or one percent of the household income, whichever is higher.   

You could also be in for a lot of sleepless nights if a health crisis hits your family. 

"You could walk out the door, get hit by a car, and be 35-thousand dollars down the hole," said Madiha Tariq, Manager of Public Health Programs at ACCESS. 

The organization is one of four health navigators in the state of Michigan. Tariq says she expected her agency would help 6,400 people sign up for coverage by August. They had already helped 7,000 by February, and they expect to help another thousand before the March 31st deadline. 

"We will stay open the last weekend before the deadline," Tariq said, as ACCESS heads into the final stretch of registration. March 31st falls on a Monday, so the last weekend could be a busy time for health navigators around the state. In addition to the last-minute push, ACCESS will hold group enrollment sessions in the coming weeks to speed up the process.

Tariq says she believe the final few weeks of enrollment will go more smoothly than the first few weeks did in October. "I am hopeful the website will work better, but I also want our clients to be prepared don't try to sign up on March 31st." 

As for Janny, he qualified for government subsidies and found a plan with a premium that was half of what he used to pay. He says he think you should get organized, review your options, and try to do the same for you family. "Get off your behinds, go take care of it. You'll feel a lot better as I have felt," he told Ruth to the Rescue. 

ACCESS is just one of 4 navigators in the state of Michigan.

To get more information on events sponsored by ACCESS: www.accesscommunity.org/

Other navigators are listed below: