Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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December 26, 2013

Avoiding gaps in health care

It takes persistence to sign up for Obamacare.

CHICAGO — The deadline has passed, and so too the surprise grace period, for signing up for health insurance as part of the nation’s health care law.

Now what?

For those who were able to navigate the glitch-prone and often overwhelmed HealthCare.gov website, there’s still work to be done to make sure success online leads to actual coverage come the new year.

The first step experts recommend is to call your insurance company and double-check they received your payment.

What if you missed the Christmas Eve deadline and still want insurance in 2014, as the health law requires of most Americans? You may be without health insurance for a month, but you can still sign up for coverage that will start in February.

“Be patient, because they’re trying to help you,” said Tina Stewart, a 25-year-old graduate student in Salt Lake City who succeeded in enrolling in a health plan Tuesday morning. “It will take time.”

The historic changes made by the Affordable Care Act take full effect on Jan. 1. People with chronic health conditions can no longer be denied health insurance. Those who get sick and start piling up medical bills will no longer lose their coverage. Out-of-pocket limits arrive that are designed to protect patients from going bankrupt.

But unless the 1 million Americans who have so far enrolled for coverage via the new marketplaces make sure their applications have arrived at their new insurance companies without errors, some may find they’re still uninsured when they try to refill a prescription or make a doctor’s appointment.

“The enrollment files have been getting better and more accurate, but there is still work that needs to be done,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group that represents the private insurance industry. “The health plans are still having to go back and fix some of data errors coming through in these files.”

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