Health insurance sign-up deadline passes

lifestyle_healthnewsBy Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Health insurance shoppers kept Northeast Mississippi organizations busy with last-minute sign-ups on Monday.

“Today is extremely busy with walk-ins and appointments,” said Melissa Kuykendall, certified enrollment counselor with Access Family Health in Tupelo.

Other Northeast Mississippi organizations offering in-person assistance, like CATCH Kids in Tupelo and Gilmore Regional Medical Center in Amory, also reported an uptick in people looking for help with insurance sign-up ahead of the deadline.

Healthcare.gov reported record traffic with 1.2 million users as of noon Monday, and 125,000 people on the site at one time. The heavy volume put the system under strain and prevented some from being able to process their applications.

The official open enrollment period for the federal health insurance exchange ended at midnight Monday, but anyone who has attempted to apply will have two weeks to complete enrollment.

Additionally, anyone with a major life change – such as a change in employment, marriage or the birth of a child – has a 60-day period to apply for coverage through the exchange for the rest of the year, Kuykendall said.

People who don’t have credible insurance face penalties on their 2015 taxes next year, although those who couldn’t access affordable insurance are exempt. The insurance can come through employers, the private marketplace or public programs. However, for Mississippians, the federal health insurance marketplace is the only place to access income-based subsidies.

As of mid-March, about 32,000 Mississippians had enrolled in coverage through the state’s federally-run website.

michaela.morris@journalinc.com