Shorter enrollment period set this year for ACA

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- There's one web address which many Americans will be typing in, starting next week – HealthCare.Gov – as open enrollment begins November 1st for people to sign up for coverage. It will run until December 15, as opposed to the end of January as in previous years.

With a shorter window of opportunity to sign up this year, those at the local level are stepping up to help out.

"If people do not enroll between November 1st and December 15th, that door closes,” Lieske Giese, director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department, said to WEAU 13 News on Tuesday. “Our strong encouragement is that people sign up for ACA that are needing health insurance."

During open enrollment in 2016, more than 3,916 people in Eau Claire County selected a plan on the Affordable Care Act marketplace, but Giese says it's not just for the poor or people not eligible through an employer.

“Often, people that are on ACA are using that resource, because they're not eligible for an employer-sponsored health insurance or they're not in a low enough income bracket to be eligible for, in Wisconsin, Medicaid or BadgerCare,” she said. “There is a middle group of people who may be self-employed, who may be farmers, who may be at an employment situation where they don't offer health insurance that really need it."

According to the UW Population Health Institute, more than 220,000 Wisconsinites last year put the Affordable Care Act to work for them. But, no matter how people in the state get their health coverage taken care of, getting it taken care of isn't always easy.

"Actually, I have a girlfriend right now who's just been a little stressed out about the open enrollment, and getting her paperwork, and getting on the computer, and trying to find a different plan, because the one she has right now isn't working well for her," Peggy Olevson of Chippewa Falls said to WEAU 13 News on Tuesday.

Giese said the amount of information from the federal government about the shorter enrollment has diminished, putting more of the role of communication on her department's shoulders.

"In the end, I think it's to nobody's advantage in this community if people don't have access to resources like ACA,” she said. “So if you know somebody that might need it, please tell them to look at the resources that are available. We'd much rather have people look at the possibility of enrolling rather than waiting until it's too late, and then all the sudden realizing they need that resource."

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