Obamacare Navigators Available To Help During Special Enrollment Period

Dec 20, 2017

Floridians have until December 31st to sign up for a health insurance plan through Obamacare, thanks to Hurricane Irma.

But to take advantage of the special enrollment period, they'll need to get clearance from a national call center.

Consumers who start their application online won't be able to pick a plan because enrollment closed for most of the country on Dec. 15.

Floridians can get approval for the extension by calling the marketplace call center at (800) 318-2596.

Navigators with the Family Healthcare foundation will be working through the holidays if people need help signing up, said Melanie Hall, the group’s executive director.

“We have navigators available every day except Christmas Day so we can certainly find an appointment available for everyone who is needing one-on-one assistance,” Hall said.

To find a navigator, visit coveringtampabay.org or coveringflorida.org.

Through Dec. 9, more than 1 million people had signed up for an Affordable Care Act plan through the marketplace.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had yet to release data for the final week of regular enrollment, but Hall says that is typically the busiest week.

"Last week was a very intense week in terms of trying to find -- I mean we ran out of appointments early in the week and we really had to open up new appointments, make evening appointments available,” Hall said. “We served as many people as we could possibly serve last week.”

There has been a significant drop-off in calls this week, she said.

Even with the final surge and the special enrollment period, it’s unlikely that enrollment will reach last year’s levels, Hall said.

Last year, 1.7 million Floridians signed up during open enrollment and about 1.4 million ended up keeping their plans.

But President Trump’s administration cut enrollment time in half this year and slashed money for advertising and navigators.

"It wouldn't surprise me if we didn't surpass last year,” Hall said.

Still, Hall says about 30 percent of the people her organization helped this year were new enrollees.

“I will tell you that many people were pleasantly surprised,” Hall said. “We saw more enrollments and more new enrollments than we’ve seen in years past.”

Consumers who were watching the attempts in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act and had heard about double digit premium increases were extremely grateful to be able to find an affordable plan on the marketplace, Hall said.

“What consumers express to us is a tremendous relief and gratitude that this is still available to them,” Hall said. “When they were able to find something that met their budget and still met the needs of their families there was palpable relief.”