Today is deadline for January 1 healthcare coverage

President Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama.

By Carmen Glover

Despite all the controversy swirling around President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare legislation, the Affordable Care Act, one deadline has not changed: Today, Monday, December 23, 2013, is the last day for people to sign up for healthcare coverage in order to have their heath insurance policies in place for January 1, 2014.

The Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare,” launched officially on October, 1, 2013, coinciding with the government shutdown in Congress. While millions of people flocked to the website to shop for appropriate coverage packages, many were unable to shop for health care plans because of technological problems which plagued the site at the time of its launch and for the entire month of October.

“The glitches have been fixed and the buck stops with me,” President Obama said during his final press conference at the White House on Friday, December 20, 2013. “More than 1 million people have already signed up,” he continued, while repeating his oft-stated goal of having 7 million people sign up by the March 31, 2014 deadline. After that deadline is reached, the uninsured will be subjected to a fine if they fail to obtain health coverage. Up to 12,000 call representatives are expected to be available today to process inquiries about healthcare coverage and to assist interested healthcare shoppers, the President said.

The process of signing up for healthcare coverage has been relatively smooth in New York until Friday, when the site crashed for a short while due to the crush of potential customers flocking to the site to enroll before today’s deadline. The main reason why New Yorkers have had an easier time enrolling in healthcare coverage is because the state has its own independent healthcare marketplace, which is not attached to the official government portal. Several other states have their own independent healthcare marketplace as well, which have greatly expedited the enrollment process for eager healthcare shoppers.

To get more information about signing up for healthcare coverage, a good place to start is the official government website, The site directs shoppers to the marketplace exchanges, including independent, state-run websites. The most attractive feature of the Affordable Care Act is that “It does not allow insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions,” President Obama has said repeatedly. One thing is clear: No one who needs healthcare coverage should go without, or incur a fine, without first exploring what is available and how that fits into the family’s budget. So go ahead, take your time and shop around for the coverage that best meets your family’s needs.–

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