While experts work to fix the problems with the federal health insurance marketplace website, U.S. PIRG urges consumers to take advantage of other ways to enroll.
“The problems with the website are frustrating for everyone,” said Laura Etherton, U. S. PIRG health policy analyst. “There’s clearly huge demand for affordable insurance and right now, and consumers need to know their options.”
In addition to visiting the Healthcare.gov website, U.S. PIRG recommends consumers take advantage of the other methods to enroll:
1. By phone. Call 1-800-318-2596 to apply for a health insurance plan and enroll over the phone. (TTY: 1-855-889-4325)
2. In person. Visit a trained counselor in your community to compare your options and apply in person. Find help in your area at LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov.
3. By mail. Complete a paper application and mail it in. You can download the paper application form and instructions from HealthCare.gov.
Consumers can find more practical information on U.S. PIRG’s website, such as consumer advocates’ top tips for getting the best deal on health insurance, and the new young person’s guide to health insurance, So You Need Health Insurance, Now What?
For insurance plans beginning January 1, 2014, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, and most people will be required to have insurance coverage or pay a fee. Through the new health insurance marketplace, consumers can compare plans and find out about financial help to lower the cost of insurance.
“It’s important to remember that there is still time,” said Etherton. “Applications need to be in by December 15 for coverage to begin in January, and the six-month open enrollment period goes through March 2014.”
UPDATE: The deadline to apply has been extended to December 23, 2013, and the deadline for premium payment extended to December 31, 2013, for coverage to begin on January first.