Procrastinator’s guide to finding help signing up for Obamacare before Feb. 15

     Will Bethea of Pennsylvania Health Access Network counsels a prospective enrollee during a sign-up session at the Coleman Library in Northwest Philadelphia. His group has helped nearly 400 people enroll in Medicaid since eligibility expanded in the state. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Will Bethea of Pennsylvania Health Access Network counsels a prospective enrollee during a sign-up session at the Coleman Library in Northwest Philadelphia. His group has helped nearly 400 people enroll in Medicaid since eligibility expanded in the state. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    The deadline to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act is closing in.And if last year is any indicator of what’s to come in the buildup to February 15, a wave of procrastinators may be coming out of the woodwork, crowding enrollment events and assistance offices around Philadelphia in need of help signing up.

    Certified counselors and navigators are readying for the influx this year through added events and extended hours.

    Pennsylvania Health Access Network has an online schedule of enrollment events across the state. The group also has a help line at 1-877-570-3642.

    People in New Jersey can go to www.covernj.org to find help.

    Pennsylvania and New Jersey have federally facilitated marketplaces, so the site to directly sign up for insurance is www.healthcare.gov. The marketplace operates a helpline at 1-800-318-2596 and an online assistance locator. The website for Delaware is www.choosehealthde.com/Health-Insurance.

    A list of state-specific certified navigator groups can be found here.

    A new scheduling tool

    One new way people can plan ahead and make appointments in their neighborhood is through an online connector tool the group Enroll America launched last fall: www.getcoveredamerica.org/connector/.

    “It’s essentially a scheduling tool. How it works for consumers, they can put in their zip code, search for an enrollment appointment in their community,” said Neil Deegan, Pennsylvania’s Enroll America director. Sites include public libraries and community centers. “And the word appointment is really critical because what we know is that a consumer that works with an in person assister is twice as likely to complete the process of getting enrolled.”

    Nearly 1,600 Pennsylvanians have already made appointments this way, according to Deegan. He says one benefit for assister groups is that when people sign up for appointments for upcoming events, it helps groups better plan for how many counselors to have on hand. 

    Nationwide, nearly 36,000 people have connected with assisters this way.

    The Public Health Management Corporation is managing the tool in Pennsylvania and says 29 organizations in the state are using it, including the Health Federation of Philadelphia and PHAN.

    “We saw long lines the last two weeks of the enrollment period last year, and this tool will hopefully help us gauge capacity and make sure that as many folks that need to get covered, can get covered,” says Deegan.

    Disclosure: Public Health Management Corporation funds health reporting at WHYY.

    An earlier version of the story misspelled Neil Deegan’s name.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.