News In Brief

News In Brief

Enrollment for Obamacare Continues Despite Government Shutdown

Among technical and congressional glitches, the Affordable Healthcare Act’s mandated health insurance registration continued throughout its first day yesterday. Illinois’ health insurance marketplace, Get Covered Illinois did not experience any major setbacks.

The Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, goes into effect in January 2014. For the approximately 48 million currently uninsured Americans to have coverage by January 1, they must choose a healthcare plan by December 15. However, registration remains open through March 31, 2014. Anyone not participating in a healthcare plan by the spring will incur federal fines.

Funding Obamacare has been at the center of the budget debates in Congress that led to yesterday’s government shutdown. A strict party-line fight, neither side is willing to budge on paying for the entire program (Democrats) or removing certain parts of it and delaying when it takes effect (Republicans). The irony, however, is that the funding for Obamacare is not affected by the budget in question.

But regardless of political ties and opinions of Obamacare, the bickering on The Hill has not only caused up to 800,000 federal workers to become essentially unemployed temporarily (though Congress still gets paid throughout the shutdown), but the breadth of important information about Obamacare and the state exchanges, like Get Covered Illinois, have been lost or buried in the fray.

The Commonwealth Fund is a foundation that promotes better access to, and better quality of, healthcare. A recent survey conducted by the fund shows that six in ten Americans—40 percent—are unaware of the exchanges. And those who are currently uninsured and will most likely benefit from Obamacare know even less about it—more than two-thirds of the uninsured are unaware of the exchanges.

The opening of exchanges still may affect many already insured persons. Insurance companies, such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, reminded their customers to update their health plans by December 15 in order to continue their coverage come January. —David Himmel