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Deadline January 31st For ACA (Obamacare) Registration, But Extension Possible

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The fireworks continue over the immigration issue, but January 31st is a key date in another major national debate.

It’s the deadline for people to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, a program the Trump Administration has vowed to replace.

The threats to eliminate the program have created questions about its future.

Officials with Covered California, the umbrella program for healthcare insurance in the state, say if you need coverage, and are eligible, you need to get onboard by midnight on the 31st.

James Scullary, with Covered California, says they understand that with all the media attention over Republican promises to repeal Obamacare, people are worried. But, he says the fact is the program is up and running, and even if there are changes, they will probably take time.

In California, the latest tally shows that more than 1.6 million people are on board. There are no updated numbers for the Central and South Coasts, but as of last June, there were more than 60,000 participants. That includes 34,000 in Ventura County, 16,000 in Santa Barbara County, and 12,000 in San Luis Obispo County.

Scullary says those who question the need for the program say the numbers speak for themselves. In 2014, 17% of Californians were living without health insurance. Now, the number is down to just over 7%.

The changes promised by the Trump Administration have also raised questions in the minds of some low income Med-Cal recipients on the Central and South Coasts.

Bob Freeman, the Executive Director of CenCal Health, which says the healthcare industry needs to educate Congress, and the President about the need for the Affordable Care Act, or something like it. He says you can provide basic coverage up front, to prevent serious medical issues. If you don’t, people end up sick, they go to emergency rooms, and we end up spending many times more than if we had provided coverage up front.

While what will happen with the Affordable Care Act remains a huge question mark, the fact is the coverage is still available, with the window for getting onboard midnight Tuesday.

UPDATE: After this story aired Tuesday morning, Covered California announced that people who have at begun the enrollment process by midnight Tuesday night will get until February 4th to complete the process.  The move was in response to an anticipated last minute flood of applicants.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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