Affordable Care Act deadline nears; help still available at multi-service centers

If you don't enroll before tonight, you could face financial penalties but there are spots all over town offering last minute sign up assistance.
March 31, 2014 4:20:08 AM PDT
Today is the final day for Americans to sign up for private health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. If you don't enroll before 11pm Houston time, you could face financial penalties. But there are spots all over town offering last-minute sign up assistance.

Yesterday, hundreds of Houstonians were out trying to get signed up. More than 6 million people across the country have signed up for Obamacare as thousands more race to get health insurance before the March 31 deadline.

Yesterday, there were long lines at the Southwest Multi-Service Center on High Star Drive. Many people said they've not been successful signing up online or on the phone, so they came out in person.

"We're offering an opportunity for families to come in and register and enroll for health insurance," said Zahyrah Blakeney with the Health Department.

"It was a very long process. People started getting frustrated and nothing was getting done," said Alberto Ramirez, who was getting signup assistance yesterday.

Those with pre-existing conditions, who do not have coverage from an employer and aren't eligible for Medicaid or Medicare, are eligible for Obamacare.

If you begin the application by today but don't finish, you will be able to take advantage of a grace period. The government says it will also accept paper applications until April 7.

Uninsured residents can set up an appointment for one-on-one help from HDHHS's certified application counselors at the centers by calling 832-393-5423. The counselors are able to help residents compare health plans and find one that fits them best

Help is available from the HDHHS until 10pm today at the following locations.

  • Denver Harbor MSC, 6402 Market Street
  • Northeast MSC, 9720 Spaulding
  • Southwest MSC, 6400 High Star
  • Magnolia MSC, 7037 Capitol Street
  • Hiram Clarke MSC, 3810 West Fuqua
  • Sunnyside MSC, 9314 Cullen

HDHHS will set the last ACA enrollment appointments with its counselors for 8pm today. The appointments are on a first come, first served basis.

Documents needed to enroll during an appointment include:

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship: social security number or copy of U.S. passport for all family members
  • State residency: driver's license, housing lease or utility bill
  • Income: W-2 forms or pay stubs; unemployment or disability; social security, pension and retirement income; or copy of 2012 tax return
  • Current health insurance: policy numbers for any current health insurance and information about job-related health insurance
  • Immigration status or legal residency: Immigration document status numbers.

More than 114,000 people in the Houston area already enrolled in one of the more than 40 ACA health plans available in the region. HDHHS set up an ACA call center as part of the Gulf Coast Health Insurance Marketplace Collaborative, a group of 13 agencies helping people obtain insurance coverage through the ACA.

Uninsured residents can also sign up for a health insurance plan online by visiting HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov.

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