Thousands in Wisconsin yet to sign up under Affordable Care Act

APPLETON – If you don’t have health insurance, you may have some work to do this week.

The deadline to sign up on the federal exchange is seven days away.

If you are eligible and don’t sign up, you could face a fine. And experts say a majority of uninsured people in the state are facing that possibility.

The last minute push to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is on. Town of Menasha resident Deb Hawley is finishing the process at a sign up site in Appleton.

“I retired early and I was under private insurance which was Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield also. But I could get the same coverage with a subsidy that totally helped my budget.”

Officials say with a week before the federal signup deadline, Hawley isn’t alone in finishing the enrollment process.

“We’re talking thousands of people that still need to do it,” said Trish Sarvela, development director for Partnership Community Health Clinic.

Groups like Citizen Action of Wisconsin are touring the state making a last minute push to encourage others to sign up as well. But they admit not everyone will do it.

“There may be an issue of people not wanting to sign up or people who haven’t really gone in to see what their options are,” said Citizen Action’s Carolyn Castore.

FOX 11 did a fact check. Wisconsin has about 500,000 people without insurance. To date only about 75,000 have enrolled in the health insurance exchange program.

Republican Congressman Tom Petri says that number is not surprising.

“Unfortunately, the provisions in the law have made it so that young people especially are paying high premiums, which may explain why they’re not signing up as expected and could choose to pay the penalty instead.”

“I think some people might still be a little bit skeptical about this. Some people may just still be putting it off. Other people may still not know that the deadline is approaching,” said Sarvela.

Sarvela also says counselors are on hand offering free help to those trying to find insurance. She says people who don’t sign up by March 31 will face fines and could be without coverage until the next enrollment period begins in October.

The Republican-led House passed a bill to delay the penalty for people who don’t sign up by the deadline. However, it isn’t expected to go anywhere in the Senate.

For those who enroll by next Monday, coverage will start on May 1.

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