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ACA Deadline Doesn't End Push

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Lottie Watts
/
WUSF

Gerry Skinner has spent every day the past six months in non-stop promotion mode. She’s been getting the word out – in English, Spanish, even Arabic – about the need for Tampa area residents to sign up for health insurance.

Skinner, who manages certified application counselors at the Tampa Family Health Centers, said counselors will be working up to Monday’s deadline for Americans to start their applications: from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Monday, as well as at a Saturday family carnival at the Sheldon Road center.

“After the March 31 enrollment period, it doesn’t end. It’s still going to continue,” she said. “We’re still going to be here for the community. We’re still going to provide support."

As of Thursday, more than 6 million Americans had signed up for a plan through the federal Healthcare.gov or one of the state exchanges, federal officials announced. The number of those who are Floridians hasn't been reported; as of March 1, 442,000 Floridians had enrolled.

While Skinner knows she may shift her attention after Monday’s deadline, she will continue to push insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act for those who qualify because of a change in circumstances.

She answered a few questions people who are uninsured may have as the March 31 deadline approaches.

Q: What does the deadline really mean?

“By the deadline you should have some type of insurance in place by this deadline, so that way you don’t have a penalty at the end of the year.”

Q: What about people who are exempt from having to get coverage, such as individuals who earn less than $11,400 a year? Will they be penalized?

A:   “If you don’t have insurance…You can get a piece of paperwork that we can fill out for you – it’s a waiver that can show you are not eligible for this type of insurance or that you don’t meet the qualifications. So there’s no reason for them to be scared…they should come in and fill out the paperwork and they will be okay.”

Q: Can people who don’t earn enough money to qualify for a Healthcare.gov plan still get help covering the cost of health care?

A: “So if they don’t have insurance, we will help them apply (for programs such as) Medicaid…For their children we also have (subsidized plans such as the Children's Health Insurance Plan) or Kid Care. If they don’t qualify for any of those, we can put them on a payment plan (for care at the clinic), on a sliding scale based on their income. We’ll never turn anybody away, we will always find some support for them.”

Q: Do seniors 65 and older need to apply via Healthcare.gov?

A: No, plans under the Affordable Care Act are for people under 65. "Once they have Medicare, they’re covered. They’re not really eligible for a plan under the Affordable Care Act, because they have coverage,” she said.

Have more questions about the Affordable Care Act? Read More.