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New deadline set for health insurance enrollment

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The number of West Virginians enrolling for health insurance through the federal exchange continued to climb above 2,200 before a new deadline for enrollment for full year coverage in 2014.

Monday was supposed to be the last day people without health care insurance could enroll to have the coverage take effect on Jan. 1.  That deadline has now been pushed back to 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

“It is a little lower, but it has gotten substantially better than what we had seen before,” said Fred Earley, president of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, of the number of enrollees.  His company is the only company in West Virginia offering health insurance plans through the federal exchange.

Enrollment is an option, without penalties, through March 31st.

However, consumer advocates said the new Tuesday deadline was especially important for people whose pre-existing condition insurance plans will end Dec. 31, those in states where Medicaid is scaling back and individuals who lost coverage when insurers canceled 2013 plans that did not meet the required standards of the Affordable Care Act.

Technical problems with the enrollment website for the federal exchanges in West Virginia and across the country,, stalled sign ups when the enrollment period first opened on Oct. 1.

Earley said the enrollment gates have opened since Dec. 1 when fixes for that website were fully implemented.  “If the enrollment, at its current pace, would continue on through the first three months of 2014, we feel we’d have a pretty robust pool at that time,” said Earley on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

He said it takes about 72 hours to turn around an enrollment application.  Because of that, Earley said the upcoming holidays would be working holidays for many employees with Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“We’re going to extraordinary efforts with our staff here to make certain that, if they do sign up, that they will have their coverage effective Jan. 1,” said Earley.

As for the enrollees up to now, “They tend to mirror the population of the state right now and that is it shades toward an older population as opposed to a younger population.  No real surprises there for West Virginia,” he said.

Nationally, government officials said was handling at least 800,000 people a day leading up to Tuesday’s deadline.

Back on Friday, President Barack Obama said more than a million people had used the reworked website to sign up for health insurance through both the federal and state exchanges and most of those enrollments were in December.

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