By Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The next big push to get every American signed up for health insurance began Saturday. It marked the official start of the second enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act.
Phone lines are open and the healthcare.gov website is once again taking new enrollees and health officials promise it will be easier and quicker to complete the process this time around.
The online application has gone from 76 separate screens down to just 16, though in Southeastern Pennsylvania, there will be more choices. More insurers have entered the Marketplace, offering a total of 41 plans. South Jersey residents have 50 plans to choose from.
“Our goal this year is to make sure that we get as many consumers in as we can,” says Health Secretary Sylvia Burwell, “and that the consumer experience is a quality experience for all.”
Burwell was in Philadelphia recently to promote enrollment and also to urge those who enrolled last time to review their plans and compare them with new options available this time. Otherwise, they’ll be automatically re-enrolled in the same plan.
Help navigating the site is plentiful, as advocates say they’ve increased the number of federally-certified counselors — and the language diversity. They say non-English speakers were under-represented in the more than eight million people who enrolled last time.
Even the Free Library is lending assistance in the enrollment process.
“We have 40 librarians who are certified application counselors,” says director Siobhan Reardon, “so if you don’t have a computer at home, you come in here.”
There’s also good news for low-income Pennsylvanians who tried to enroll last time and learned they made too little to qualify for subsidies. They’ll be able to sign up for Medicaid under an expansion plan approved in August.
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