Affordable Care Act Deadline Looms

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Less than two weeks remain for the uninsured to find a health plan before paying a penalty.

Mar. 31 is the deadline imposed by the Affordable Care Act for consumers to get covered. Nationwide, 5 million people have signed up. That's still a million short of the president's goal. Volunteers are working hard to meet that goal by getting the word out.

"When we're on the phone with consumers or at community events or at barbershops, at churches, we're making sure that everybody knows that March 31st is the deadline and after the deadline there's going to be a fine assessed," said Shawn Dhanak, communication lead for Michigan's branch of Get Covered America.

More than 144,000 people have signed up in the state, Dhanak said, a number he said has exceeded expectations by 12 percent.

Now, he says, the final push comes, particularly trying to get young adults on board.

"They tend to wait until the last minute, as they do with a lot of different things," said Dhanak. "But I can tell you young adults really understand the benefits of having quality healthcare coverage."

Volunteers spent the day at the Atkinson Library at Jackson College, tabling for the cause. Sona Jani was one of several handing out fliers and even walking people through applications.

"Any small amount of information will really be that push to get people the health insurance they need," said Jani, a certified application counselor.

A lot of young people may know the Mar. 31 deadline, Jani said, but little else. That rings true with JC student Mindy Porter, who stopped by the table.

"I think people my age really don't stay on top of that type of thing," she said. They're just not as aware as they should be. I had no idea where to get the application, I didn't know the first thing about it. So I think her explaining it definitely made things clearer."

The certified explainers -- called navigators and certified application counselors -- have been busy in Jackson. In months past, the Center for Family Health was lucky to get walk-ins. Now, with the deadline looming, Regional Lead Navigator Danielle Carpenter says it's busier than ever.

"We're finding we have so many clients we can't keep up with just doing walk-ins," she said. "So we're doing the appointments."

Carpenter says her office sees about 20 people a day and often has to work through lunch and after hours. In all, the center has made some sort of contact with 3,600 people, enrolling 190 of them.

But some are still hesitant to enroll, she said. Only about 14 percent of people who visit enroll the same day, which Carpenter attributes to nerves.

"We don't have as many people doing that final step, enrolling and actually picking that plan," she said. "A lot of people are just nervous about jumping into something, even if they do find it affordable."

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