Government health care signup deadline extended one day - Wandtv.com, NewsCenter17, StormCenter17, Central Illinois News-

Government health care signup deadline extended one day

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The Obama administration announced people have an extra 24 hours to sign up for the new health care plan.

It's been a mad dash to get new health care coverage. Agencies said many people will need the extra day to finish the sign up process. Some people still worry they won't meet the deadline in time to get coverage January one, but experts are saying not to panic.

"We do a lot more than just sign people up for plans," Williams said. "We help them understand."

Health Insurance Coordinator at the Macon County Health Department Sally Williams had a busy day with meetings and phone calls. As of mid-December, she's helped 246 people sign up.  At first she didn't even know the deadline changed.

"That means will be very busy tomorrow then, too," Williams said with a laugh.

A busy Christmas Eve, but experts saying not to wait.  Shannon Garrett helped consumers decide between private or government health care.

"We have close to 400 individuals that this is affecting," Garrett said.

And not everyone is making the switch. Less than a handful of those clients have gotten through the entire process and are going on the new plan. For instance, a family of four she is working with experienced that with an ACA compliant plan, the premium was jumping from $600 to $1,200 a month. The deductible went from $1,000 to $3,000.

"It's just keeping in perspective that you've still got coverage," Garrett explained.  "If you can afford it and then investigate your options a little further after today, then you can make a more educated decision without feeling the need to panic and put something in force that you otherwise may not."

Miss the new deadline and the earliest people would be able to get coverage is February 1. The deadline for the uninsured is March 31 and consumers would not be subject to a penalty fee.

With the high demand for coverage, the sign up process is taking hours. On Get Covered Illinois, more than 1,600 people called the telephone help line over the weekend, that's more than double from the previous weekend. The health insurance website also saw a spike. More than 26,000 residents went online to visit getcoveredIllinois.gov.  If people still need help signing up, the help desk is open at 7 a.m. Tuesday. The number is: 866 -311-1119.

Under the new plan, with chronic or catastrophic illnesses can no longer be denied. Insurers also have to provide more coverage including full mental health care, vaccinations, cancer screenings, maternity care and birth control. More than 4 million Americans lost coverage when their policies fell short of the new federal standards, but overall the system needs everyone involved to keep it affordable.

"If we don't get those young, healthy people in the system, that could cause problems for everybody else buying insurance," explained Robert Zirkelbach with America's Health Insurance Plans.

The government expects nearly 1.5 million people to sign up for new health care plans by the end of December.

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