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Cortland County counts down the days to the next Obamacare deadline

Ellen Abbott/WRVO
Advocates announce "Countdown to Coverage" campaign.

Cortland County has started a "Countdown to Coverage," to try and get the word out about the next major deadline for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

According to Lindy Glennon of the Cortland County Community Action Program, the next important date in the Affordable Care Act timeline is March 31, which is a little over three weeks away. March 31 is the last day to enroll in health coverage through the New York State of Health marketplace, without facing penalties.

"What that means is people who are not enrolled by March 31 are not going to be able to enroll till the open enrollment starts again in October...you have another six months of waiting until you get any health care coverage," said Glennon.

There are some exceptions to that deadline, for example in cases where consumers face life changes.

Chad Eldred, the navigator director of the Southern Tier Independence Center, also says often in more rural communities, it is a greater challenge to get uninsured people signed up because of a lack of Internet or transportation.

"Even if they have a car, they may not have the funds, the gas money to get to where they need to go. We will meet you as close to your house as possible, and, in extreme extenuating circumstances, we’re one of the few agencies that’s included in our grant, if you have cell service at your house, we can enroll you in your home," said Eldred.

Enrollers admit there are still many uninsured people who do not know how to choose a plan through the New York State of Health website or don’t know where to go for help. While there are state trained navigators across central New York and the Southern Tier to help individuals and businesses choose among different health plans, according to Eldred, the "Countdown to Coverage" campaign is still important.

"They may have heard of the Affordable Care Act, or more likely have heard of Obamacare, and they may not necessarily know what that means to them. I think it’ll take a couple of years to reach everybody.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.