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March 10, 2014

Federal health care deadline nearing

TULSA — Health and insurance groups in Oklahoma are trying to reach out to uninsured residents as a March 31 deadline approaches for open enrollment in health care plans under the federal Affordable Care Act.

After March 31, only people with “qualifying life events” such as a change in income or family size will be able to enroll in plans offered through the federal law. In Oklahoma, enrollment is through the federal health care exchange, healthcare.gov.

The next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15.

“We’ve been fighting an uphill battle, if you will, trying to make people aware that this offered some real opportunities for them,” Judy Grant, deputy director of the Oklahoma Primary Care Association, told the Tulsa World.

Grant said more people are enrolling as the deadline nears.

“There was a large percentage of the population that just wanted to sit back and wait and see how it’s going, particularly those who are younger ... It has become much busier.”

The law includes financial penalties for people who have no health insurance, with some exemptions that include members of Indian tribes, people who don’t make enough to file taxes or would pay more than 8 percent of household income for coverage, and those who would qualify for expanded Medicaid.

At Morton Comprehensive Health Services in Tulsa, employees are holding weekly information sessions for the public.

“We have a lot more people calling us now, mostly because of the (federal) penalty,” said Grace Burke, director of senior outreach and education at Morton.

“I want them to take a chance. Just call somebody and have them run the numbers for them. If they qualify for this insurance, it’s a great thing,” Burke said.

Melissa Parchman, owner of Magoon & Associates insurance agency in Tulsa, which has set up offices at hospitals in Tulsa, Pryor and Muskogee, said interest has been high, but she’s disappointed in the number of people ultimately able to enroll.

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