ELKHART — The Obamacare deadline is looming and boosters of the health care overhaul are redoubling their efforts to get the word out to the public.
To that end, Kathleen Falk, director of the regional U.S. Health and Human Services office that covers Indiana, traveled to Elkhart Tuesday, March 25, to encourage the public to sign up for coverage on the Obamacare healthcare marketplace. There are 910,000 people in Indiana without insurance "and our goal in the next six days is to reach as many of them as possible," Falk said at a press conference at Elkhart City Hall.
Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore was at the conference to promote the effort, saying he has two principle goals as leader — help assure that every resident who wants can get a job and help secure affordable health care for everyone.
Obamacare, more formally known as the Affordable Care Act, has faced many bumps in the roads, notably from Republican critics who view it as too costly and undue federal government interference. Those on hand Tuesday, though, had only positive things to say.
"It is not only great health care, but it is affordable health care," said Falk, who is traveling to Ohio and other Indiana locales to promote enrollment. She heads the HHS Region V office, headquartered in Chicago.
On Jan. 1, the Obamacare individual mandate went into effect, requiring everyone — with certain exceptions — to have health coverage or face fines. Coverage offered on the marketplace is geared to the working poor and part-time employees who don't get coverage through their employers, among others, and the sign-up period ends March 31.
Coverage can be secured at www.healthcare.gov or via a federal toll-free number, 800-318-2596. Local experts known as navigators also provide assistance and help will be available at several locations in the coming days, according to a press release from Moore:
- Wednesday, 3 to 8 p.m., and next Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the Tolson Center, 1320 Benham Ave., Elkhart. The phone number there is 295-6456.
- Every day this week through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Council on Aging of Elkhart County, 230 E. Jackson Blvd., Elkhart. The phone number there is 295-1820.
- Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Heart City Health Center, 236 Simpson Ave., Elkhart. The phone number there is 293-0052.
- Wednesday and Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Community Action of Northeast Indiana, 23631 U.S. 33, suite D, Elkhart. The phone number is 260-423-3546.
Those seeking help will need to bring their Social Security number, pay stubs or W-2 forms and information on current health coverage, if any.
As the March 31 deadline nears, navigators have been reporting an increase in demand for help from people signing up for marketplace coverage, Falk said.