Obamacare deadline brings enrollment rush from South Jersey residents

South Jersey Times/Andy Polhamus
Friday, March 28, 2014

It’s crunch time all over the country as those without health insurance hustle to enroll for health care under the Affordable Care Act by the March 31 deadline.

With the date swiftly approaching, President Obama announced this week that anyone who had at least begun the enrollment process by the end of the month would be granted an extension to finish if they encounter a waiting period or have difficulty joining.

Many, however, are taking their sweet time to sign up, and some people, frustrated with the system, have made the choice not to enroll at all.

“What we’ve come to realize is there’s still a lot of need for education,” said Robin Stockton, director of the Center For Family Services (CFS) Navigator Exchange Program.

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The CFS campaign lets residents make appointments with trained navigators to help them enroll. Stockton said that across seven counties — from Burlington to Cape May — the program’s 14 navigators had been working to keep up with more than 100 appointment requests per week since the beginning of the month.

“Capacity is a big roadblock for us,” said Stockton. “People like to wait until the eleventh hour.”

Although Stockton has seen a wide age range in people signing up, she acknowledged that much of the campaigning had been geared toward people in their 20s and 30s, a group she called "the young invincibles" who might be reluctant to seek out health coverage.

An information session Tuesday at Camden County College left the center loaded with as many appointments as it could accommodate, and many students were out of luck for the day.

“There are many more people looking for assistance than we have the capacity to serve. We quickly filled up with how many folks we could service, and there was still this expression of ‘I have to get this done,’” Stockton said.

Greg Potter, a spokesman for Inspira Health Network, said its counselors at hospitals in Vineland, Bridgeton and Woodbury had about 500 in-person appointments since open enrollment for Obamacare first began. Besides glitches with healthcare.gov early on, Potter said, enrollment had been fairly smooth.

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