Source: North Jersey.com
With just days left until Sunday’s deadline to enroll in health coverage through the Affordable Care Act, interest is surging, federal officials said Wednesday. Visits to healthcare.gov soared by 58 percent Wednesday morning compared to a week earlier, and calls to the federal call center increased by 37 percent.
Enrollment counselors around New Jersey were booked solid, as the uninsured and others who buy their own coverage tried to beat the deadline and avoid paying a tax penalty next year. More than 100 people signed up for coverage on Tuesday night alone at a Union City event that went into the wee hours, and the United Way office in Paterson was busy seeing applicants Wednesday afternoon, said an outreach coordinator for SRA, a federal subcontractor assisting in the sign-ups.
In New Jersey, 222,640 people had selected plans or been automatically reenrolled as of Feb. 11, an uptick of more than 6,000 in a single week. About 20,000 New Jersey residents chose insurance plans over the last month, not counting sign-ups for Medicaid.
“I urge people not to wait until the last minute,” said Andy Slavitt, a senior official with the department. As long as people start the enrollment process by Feb. 15, he said, “we will work down the queue for as long as it takes to get through the queue.” In answer to a question about whether a deadline extension was planned, Slavitt said consumers “should consider Feb. 15 as the last day to get coverage.”
…As of December, nearly 400,000 people in New Jersey had enrolled in Medicaid coverage, and — with Wednesday’s report — 222,000 in private insurance plans sold on healthcare.gov. “These enrollments have brought in about $239 million in federal funds each month, or $2.9 billion a year,” said the report by New Jersey Policy Perspective, a non-profit that advocates full enrollment in Affordable Care Act coverage.
As people seek health care, out-patient centers and doctors offices are likely to add staff to care for them, and the salaries they are paid will stimulate the economy, said Raymond Castro, the report’s author. The impact of these federal dollars “would be greatest in areas where unemployment is highest — exactly where an economic boost is most needed,” The report projected as many as 1,746 additional jobs in Paterson, for example, if full enrollment is attained; and another 1,049 in Passaic.
Bergen County, where more than 58,000 people have been added to Medicaid rolls and marketplace plans, is generating $261 million annually in federal spending for Medicaid and premium subsidies, the report said. Over the next two years, that is projected to lead to creation of nearly 3,000 jobs, the report said.
“New Jersey has a terrific opportunity to expand federal dollars coming into our state and to expand the impact those dollars have,” said Maura Collinsgru, health policy advocate with New Jersey Citizen Action.