More Alaskans sign up for health care plans

  • By IAN FOLEY
  • Wednesday, February 18, 2015 10:54pm
  • News

More Alaskans are choosing to sign up for health coverage through the government’s health care marketplace.

Now that the Feb. 15 deadline to sign up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, has passed, statistics show that this year’s enrollment numbers are strong.

20,897 Alaskans enrolled by the deadline, which is a 162 percent increase from 2014 enrollment figures, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Social Services.

From Nov. 15 through Jan. 16, people in Kenai selected or re-enrolled in 264 plans through the marketplace. In Soldotna, people signed up for 366 plans, while Homer and Seward residents enrolled in 744 and 165 plans, respectively, according to the Department of Health and Social Services.

On the Kenai Peninsula, organizations such as Peninsula Community Health Services offered assistance for people wishing to sign up for health coverage.

Tina Wegener, outreach and open enrollment coordinator for PCHS, said the organization offered two open enrollment classes during the enrollment period and held classes every other Tuesday from last October through January.

Wegener said she didn’t notice more people coming in to PCHS to sign up this year compared to the previous year, but attributed that to people being automatically enrolled from last year.

Wegener said that while the Feb. 15 deadline has passed, people who attempted to enroll but experienced problems or glitches can still sign up by Feb. 22 with help from PCHS.

The next open enrollment period begins later this year. While the next open enrollment period is months away, Wegener said throughout the year, PCHS can assist people who qualify for a special enrollment period due to life-changing events.

Chris Finley, medical operations manager for PCHS, said people have been more positive about signing up for coverage this year.

“People were a lot more open-minded about it,” Finley said. “Last year, we got a lot more negativity.”

Finley said he thought the tax penalty increase for not being covered contributed to more people signing up.

Not being covered could result in a tax penalty.

In 2014, the penalty for not having coverage was $95 per person, or 1 percent of a household income — whichever was higher. In 2015, those penalties increase to $325 per person or 2 percent of yearly household income, according to the marketplace website.

 

Reach Ian Foley at Ian.foley@peninsulaclarion.com.

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