The deadline for signing up to obtain health insurance without incurring a federal penalty is set for March 31, but many experts say that the number of people who have enrolled in the government's health insurance exchanges is still lagging. However, it's also generally agreed that the number of people who will get involved in that final few days before the end of the month will be substantial.
Hundreds of thousands of people nationwide could sign up for state- or federally-run health insurance marketplaces in the next few weeks, and it's likely that this will come in two waves, according to a report from the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune. The first of these will likely come by March 15, as that is the date by which many people who are changing insurance coverage - or moving from one such state or federal program to another - will have to sign up to ensure there is no coverage gap, even if it lasts just a few weeks.
The second of these waves will likely come within the final few days at the end of the month, largely from stragglers who do not currently have coverage of any kind, the report said. Some experts also note that this could even include the so-called "young invincible" population of people between the ages of 18 and 34 years old who are generally healthy and therefore have gone without such insurance coverage simply because they didn't feel as though they would need it.
A potential strain facing some consumers
Of course, given that there will likely be a crush of people trying to get into the marketplaces over relatively brief periods, the more they can do to make sure they're ready for enrollment, the better off they will likely be, the report said. Sheri Chrouser, patient financial services system trainer and project coordinator for Marshfield Clinic, who also supervises a number of exchange enrollment counselors, told the newspaper that the many people who try to sign up in the last few days of the month will do themselves a favor by bringing all appropriate paperwork, such as Social Security number, employer information, and income data, as a means of expediting the sign-up process for all involved.
Insurance companies may want to try to educate people about their obligations in these final days before the deadline as well, because it might end up helping them to deal with their coverage issues as easily as possible, and also potentially increase business for policy issuers.