DES MOINES — As many as 16,000 Iowans who applied for federal health care plan through the HealthCare.gov website may not have insurance for the month of January.
The Iowa Department of Public Health is encouraging those people to reapply for coverage through the state’s website, dhsservices.iowa.gov, or by calling 1-855-889-7985.
“It’s important to say that this only affects the people who applied through the federal site,” said Iowa Department of Human Services spokeswoman Amy Lorentzen McCoy.
“Please note that this is regarding Iowans who applied at HealthCare.gov and who CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) determined may be Medicaid eligible,” McCoy added.
In Linn County, Jeff Tourdot, , the county’s outreach specialist for the ACA applications, said most of those he worked with applied through the Iowa Department of Human Services website rather than HealthCare.gov.
“I am very thankful that the majority of the folks we enrolled in Linn went through the DHS portal,” Tourdot said. “We bypassed the HealthCare.gov website altogether. We did that from the get-go understanding the concerns with HealthCare.gov.”
Tourdot was quick to emphasize that those people unfortunate enough to have to go through the submittal process again have until Jan. 31 to file their information to get coverage retroactive to Jan. 1.
“They should not panic,” he said. “As much as this is an inconvenience and it’s a huge frustration, there is time.”
He encouraged anyone affected by the development to set up an appointment with an outreach specialist by calling United Way 211 by calling (319) 739-4211.
The announcement came Friday afternoon, just a few days before health care plans for the first batch of people who signed up using the federal government website were supposed to take effect on Jan. 1.
“We would advise Iowans to see their normal provider if they are sick and especially if it’s an emergency,” she said. “We’re going to do our best to have everything straightened out by the end of (next) month.”
Problems have plagued the HealthCare.gov website rollout since it first went live in October. Those issues, which include delays and recording incorrect information or not allowing customers to put in correct information, have been held up by critics of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as proof that the health care law was a mistake.
A Gallup poll released on Dec. 13 found that a majority of Americans (51 percent) generally disapprove of the law while 41 percent approved.
The issue announced Friday has to do with the federal government being unable to send appropriate application information to the state, which needs the information to make sure individuals have insurance coverage, McCoy said.
She said the federal officials had promised the information would be available to the state by Dec. 30 but called state officials Friday to say the information would be delayed.
In addition to the announcement, the Iowa Department of Human Services will send emails and letters to the 16,000 Iowans likely affected by the delay.
In a news release, Human Services Director Charles Palmer struck a calming tone.
“We are working hard to ensure that Iowans who applied through HealthCare.gov will be enrolled in health coverage. We are encouraging Iowans who applied at the federal portal to reapply through our state website and call center,” he said. “We will make every effort to process applications in a timely manner so that these Iowans can have certainty about their health care coverage.”