Nebraska falling short of feds’ Obamacare goals

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. — Two weeks after Healthcare.gov was launched, Nebraska’s Obamacare navigators hadn’t signed up a single Nebraskan for health insurance.

DEADLINE DAY: Monday was the deadline for individuals to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act or face penalties.

Today, one day after the deadline for individuals to get health insurance or face penalties, those numbers have changed substantially yet still fallen short of the Obama administration’s goals for Nebraska.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 25,582 Nebraskans had signed up for private health insurance as of March 1, about 20 percent short of the federal goal of 32,000 by that point. Of those Nebraskans who signed up, 27 percent were high-value younger people, between the ages of 18 and 34. The feds haven’t yet released more updated figures.

Community Action of Nebraska, one of two organizations selected by the Obama administration to help people find insurance on the federal insurance exchange that began operating Oct. 1, has helped several thousand people sign up.

“It’s been very busy,” Amber Hansen, executive director of Community Action, said Monday. “Our phone here has been ringing.”

Community Action and the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska were tasked with reaching out to an estimated 40,000 uninsured Nebraskans navigating Obamacare.

“We’re probably a lot closer to that goal now,” Hansen said.

She estimates her organization assisted nearly 8,000 people in signing up, not counting their family members.

“It was challenging at first because with all the problems with the website we didn’t get the traffic we had anticipated,” she said.

But in recent weeks, as the deadline approached and website was working better (before crashing Monday), people started to take it more seriously, she said. The feds have granted extensions to people who began the enrollment process but had website problems, Hansen said.

She said everything’s going “as well as can be expected.” One man got insurance after going without for years, and then had a health problem that would have bankrupted him, she said.

Community Action’s federal contract lasts several more months, she said.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org. Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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