Monday deadline to get Obamacare coverage starting in January

    An Obama administration official was in Philadelphia Friday to encourage Spanish-speaking residents to sign up for health insurance through the federal health exchange.

    That’s ahead of the Monday deadline to sign up and get insurance coverage starting January 1.

    “We’re very, very focused on outreach in the Latino community,” said Cecilia Muñoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House, who spoke at an open enrollment event at the Maria De Los Santos Health Center in North Philadelphia on Friday.

    Muñoz said after a late and troubled launch of the Spanish-language version of the federal insurance website CuidadoDeSalud.gov last year, the administration has redoubled outreach efforts targeting Latinos during this open enrollment period.

    “Word of mouth is spreading, people in the neighborhood who got covered, who have been able to access healthcare, are talking about it, and as a result more people are coming forward who were a little hesitant last year,” Muñoz said.

    New enrollees must sign up by Monday for insurance coverage to kick in on the first of the year. That’s also the deadline for current enrollees to make changes to a plan and have those changes take effect with the new year. The open enrollment period continues through February 15. 

    Obamacare penalties for those who are uninsured and do not qualify for a penalty exemption were in place this year. Those who owe one will pay it when filing 2014 tax returns in April. But next year, the penalties will get steeper.

    “For this first year it’s $95 a person or 1 percent of your income, whichever is greater,” said Joanne Grossi, regional director of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. “That penalty will go up next year, so that will become 2 percent next year or $325 per person, whichever is greater.”

    About 1.4 million people had signed up for health insurance through the HealthCare.gov website Wednesday. Officials say about half are new enrollees.

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