More than 700 Alaskans sign up for health coverage

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The federally run health insurance exchange in Alaska saw a rush of enrollments Tuesday, the deadline to sign up for coverage starting Jan. 1.

More than 700 people had signed up by Tuesday morning with help from Enroll Alaska, which was created to help individuals enroll and understand their options.

The deadline to fill out applications for coverage starting New Year’s Day had been Monday, but the federal government extended it a day for the 36 states using the federal site.

“I would say yesterday was a pretty busy day,” Enroll Alaska chief operating officer Tyann Boling said Tuesday morning. “We’re doing quite a bit today, also.”

Melanie Coon, a spokeswoman with Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield, said she didn’t have any numbers to report because the company has extended its non-grandfathered plans another year, meaning some people won’t have to make a decision until next fall’s open enrollment period.

Premera and Moda Health said they would extend into 2014 existing individual policies that otherwise would have been canceled because they didn’t meet requirements of the federal health law. President Barack Obama offered that option last month, and state insurance regulators had to give their OK.

If their members do want to move plans, Coon said payments are due by Jan. 14 for plans starting Jan. 1.

Other private companies and navigators weren’t immediately available Christmas Eve for updated numbers, but United Way of Alaska spokeswoman Sandy McClintock told KTUU that four navigators in the state had signed up 65 people through Dec. 20.

For Enroll Alaska, the numbers have seen significant increases during December, Boling said.

The federal website was taken offline because of problems and was essentially out of service in October and November. She said that by the end of November, Enroll Alaska had 107 people enrolled. More than 600 have signed up in December.

“The functionality of the website has increased dramatically. It’s still not perfect, by any means; it’s still a really, really complicated process,” Boling said. “But there’s people there to help them with it.”

March 31 remains the overall deadline for people to enroll, but Boling said she will reach out to the congressional delegation to seek an extension because of the website’s early problems.

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