By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
U.S. Representative Terri A. Sewell (D) from Selma issued a statement on Wednesday, March 26th, to remind the people of Alabama that the deadline for applying for health insurance remains Monday, March 31.
President Obama announced earlier that morning that he is extending the health care exchange deadline for those who start the process by March 31. In order to avoid problems similar to those that were faced in December when people trying to enroll by Jan. 1, 2014 overwhelmed the HealthCare.gov website. Federal officials say they are loosening the deadline only for those with “complex or extenuating” circumstances that keep them from being fully enrolled by March 31.
Congresswoman Sewell said, “Open enrollment still ends on March 31. I encourage Alabamians to enroll as soon as possible by visiting www.healthcare.gov, by calling 1-800-318-2596 to speak with a patient navigator, or by visiting a community health center in person.”
March 31, most Americans will be required to have health insurance or risk paying a penalty of $95 or 1% of personal income, whichever is greater. The penalties are being enforced by Obama’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and failure to pay that penalty will likely result in additional penalties and interest. Rep. Sewell says that federal officials are expecting a surge in last-minute enrollees. While they don’t anticipate that their troubled website will break down this time, their goal is to avoid penalizing those who need extra time. According to the Obama Administration 42 million Americans remain uninsured. As of March 1, 2014, only about 5.2 million people had enrolled in the controversial healthcare exchanges.
Representative Sewell has steadfastly opposed efforts by Republican lawmakers to overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, commonly called ‘Obamacare.’
Rep. Sewell said that her office has held five workshops in the district as well as a telephone town hall that has helped over 14,000 constituents get enrollment information on the new healthcare exchanges.
Congresswoman Sewell says that she remains an advocate for expanding Medicaid in the state of Alabama. Under the Affordable Care Act, states were ordered to expand their Medicaid coverage to all adults with incomes below 133% of the poverty level.
Alabama joined 25 other states in fighting that mandate all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Alabama prevailed there thus participation in the controversial expansion is an option for the state. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) has resisted calls by the Alabama Hospital Association, Democratic lawmakers, and advocates for the poor to expand Alabama Medicaid. Paying Alabama’s portion of the existing Medicaid Program already is the costliest item in Alabama’s troubled General Fund budget and expanding the expensive program would cost Alabama taxpayers in excess of $200 million a year from fiscal year 2017 on (the match for the first three years is being paid by federal deficit spending).
Congresswoman Sewell is seeking a third term in the United States Congress representing
Alabama’s Seventh District. She faces a Democratic challenger in the June 3rd Democratic Primary, but has no Republican opponent in the November general election.
Rep. Sewell is the first Black woman to represent Alabama in the Congress in the State’s history.