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Chicagoans rush to enroll for Obamacare

Many Chicagoans rushed to buy or renew a health insurance plan through President Barack Obama’s health care plan for their coverage to kick in Jan. 1.

But apparently not everyone succeeded.

The deadline was midnight Monday for new customers to pick a health plan through the Affordable Care Act that would take effect Jan. 1, and for current enrollees to make changes that could reduce premium and out-of-pocket increases in 2015.

The final deadline for buying coverage on the online marketplace in 2015 — and to avoid penalties at tax time in 2016 for not having insurance — is Feb. 15.

Many navigators — who are either paid by the state or the federal government to educate uninsured people about what they qualify for and how they can enroll — reported being very busy on Monday. Some just wanted information, but people wanting to enroll, mostly got that task completed, navigators said.

Navigators at Sinai Community Institute on the West Side, for instance, said they saw 20 people by 2 p.m. Monday.

Among them was Nadia Meza, a 30-year-old Oak Lawn resident, and her friend, Sandra Rodriguez, showed up around 10:30 a.m. at Sinai to get help from Diane Sanders, an in-person counselor outreach for the Affordable Care Act at Sinai.

Fours hours after they got there, Meza wound up not getting enrolled. Rodriguez did.

Meza said she had tried at least twice last week to log on, so she could buy a plan on the marketplace. But each time, she said Healthcare.gov wouldn’t let her reset her password or tell her what the old one was.

Meza again got a message saying, “We can’t process your request” Monday. Rodriguez had the same problem.

After calls to both the state and the federal hotline and a new password for one of them, Rodriguez, 44, of Bridgeview, ultimately wound up signing to get a Blue Cross Blue Shield bronze plan. Though she said it was more expensive than she had expected — she did not get any tax credits for it — she said she was satisfied to have the coverage.

And despite the time it took to enroll, she appreciated all the help she ultimately got from the state and federal government, a translator said on Rodriguez’ behalf. Rodriguez spoke only Spanish.

Meza, meanwhile, said she would try again Tuesday to call the Healthcare.gov hotline and try to get insurance, as “medical bills are not cheap.” And even though she said she rarely got sick, having health insurance would put her parents more at ease, she said.

Aviva Patt, from Wicker Park, also didn’t get through to enroll Monday. Patt had been trying to enroll for over a week at her home, she said.

She had bought a 2014 plan and wanted to update her financial information to qualify for a 2015 plan.

However, she, too, said Healthcare.gov didn’t accept her password from last year but was directed to reset it and was eventually locked her out, not allowed to reset the password. Patt said she left her number with the Healthcare.gov hotline and was told she would receive a call within five to seven days.

“I am pretty certain I will have coverage because my insurance company will just re-enroll me, but if I don’t get the subsidy, that means there’s $212 of something I won’t be able to pay for come January,” said Patt, adding she was frustrated by the process.

Last year, the federal government had extended the deadline for last-minute consumers who had tried, but failed to successfully enroll in a plan before Jan. 1 on the trouble-plagued federal website. Officials confirmed that those who failed to enroll Monday but had left their contact information at the call center for Healthcare.gov would still be able to buy a plan that would take effect Jan. 1.

A source who asked not to be named said the federal government had advised consumers earlier in the year to reset their password to avoid any issues logging in.