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No deadline to apply for Medicaid, County stresses

Monday, March 31, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times
by Stefano Esposito

Steven Glass suspects it’s not a coincidence that on the last day to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, calls to Cook County’s hotline for Medicaid enrollment skyrocketed.

Glass, in charge of managed care for the county’s health and hospital systems, said there’s a “huge misconception” that Monday was the deadline for people to sign up for a recently expanded Medicaid — the federal health care program for low-income people.

“We are certainly seeing a very high volume (of calls) today,” Glass said Monday.

In fact, Glass said, for eligible Cook County residents, there is no deadline to sign up for the program.

Officials estimate that some 350,000 county residents are eligible for the expanded Medicaid, called “CountyCare.” The program, enlarged as part of the Affordable Care Act, began enrollment in February 2013. To date, some 142,000 people in the county have applied to enroll, with approximately 87,000 approved so far, Glass said.

“We are thrilled with the numbers,” said Glass, noting the county had set a target of 115,000 applications.

To enquire about the program, call 312-864-8200 or go to CountyCare.com.

Meanwhile, although March 31 was the last day officially to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, millions of people were potentially eligible for extensions granted by the administration for various reasons.

That includes consumers who had begun enrolling by the deadline but didn’t finish, perhaps because of errors, missing information or website glitches. The government says it will accept paper applications until April 7 and take as much time as necessary to handle unfinished cases on HealthCare.gov. Rules may vary in states running their own insurance marketplaces.

The Obama administration is also offering special extensions to make up for all sorts of problems that might have kept people from getting enrolled on time: natural disasters, domestic abuse, website malfunctions, errors by insurance companies and mistakes by application counselors.



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