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If you haven’t signed up for Obamacare yet …

Dan Gorenstein Dec 23, 2013
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Update 12/24:  According to the New York Times: “The Obama administration said Tuesday that it would provide more time for people to sign up for health insurance if they could show that they missed the Tuesday deadline for applications because of problems with the federal health care website.”

The ever-changing deadlines of the Affordable Care Act have changed again.

Shoppers will now have until midnight on Christmas Eve to sign up for insurance on the healthcare exchanges and still be covered come Jan. 1.

Procrastinating Americans –including President Barack Obama – have flocked to healthcare.gov and state-run exchanges over the last few days.

It’s what Kevin Teer from Collingswood, N.J., did Sunday afternoon. He found himself a silver plan and he’s got a whole to-do list to go with it.

“It’s the joint pain. And I’ve got terrible ringing in my ears that I constantly live with,” he says.

Until now, Teer hasn’t taken good care of himself because he can’t afford it. The recession hit him and his wife hard. Both have jobs, but earn half  what they did five years ago. Teer says just the thought of getting in to see a doctor is already improving his quality of life.

Every time I walk out the door, I worry about getting hurt and to know that is taken care of is certainly going to give me a great piece of mind,” he says.

Plus,  Teer adds,  he’ll save $1,000 on health care costs.

“A key goal is to try to reach the Kevin Teers of this world,” says Kevin Counihan, head of Connecticut’s health exchange, Access Health CT.

By Jan. 1, over one million consumers are expected to have insurance through the exchanges or Medicaid.

“We believe we are going to be able to announce in January for the first time ever that our uninsured level will be below nine percent,” says Counihan.

He says more people with insurance, could mean fewer unpaid bills for hospital stays and ER visits; costs that get passed on to all of us.

While Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt agrees there’s promise, he points out that getting people signed up for insurance is only the beginning.

“We’ll see after Jan. 1 people who are now in insurance for the first time, how will they feel having a big deductible that buys them protection but may not pay for their routine doctor’s visits and prescriptions,” he says.

Levitt says what to watch now is how people will use their new insurance.

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