Time is running out for Michiganders to sign up for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
Midnight Saturday is the deadline to qualify for next year’s health plans.
“What you haven’t seen this year, and indeed last year, is some of the capacity issues: servers going down and long waiting times, which you’ve seen in the past,” says Doug O’Brien, the regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “And we’re really, really pleased that we’ve been able to make that process a lot easier and a lot more consumer friendly.”
O’Brien says the federal government has tried to use social media and electronic communication to reach people eligible for the program.
But in Michigan and nationally, the number of people signing up for health insurance coverage through the online marketplace is down sharply.
Critics blame Trump administration spending cuts on advertising and assistance programs for declining sign ups. Others point to low employment, new alternative insurance options, and no penalty for not having coverage as also possibly playing a role.
By last count, 126,638 Michiganders have signed up during the current enrollment period, significantly below the pace last year. In 2017, 224,379 Michiganders enrolled in the program. It remains unclear how many Michiganders will get their insurance through the Affordable Care Act next year, since many current policy holders will see their coverage rolled over into next year.
With the clock ticking, different groups plan to help last minute sign ups ahead of the Saturday’s midnight deadline. For example, the Genesee Health Plan in Flint will be open on Saturday to assist people trying to beat the deadline.
Jim Milanowski is the president and CEO of Genesee Health Plan. He cites a Kaiser Family Foundation poll that found only 25 percent of people knew it was time to enroll or re-enroll. Malinowski blames that on a lack of advertising.
“There is certainly a challenge to get the word out about this,” says Milanowski.