Affordable Care Act deadline extended

If youâ??re one of the 48 million uninsured Americans, the Christmas Eve deadline for enrollment under the Affordable Care Act has come and gone, but you still have a few weeks to sign up for coverage starting in January.

Monday (Dec. 23) was the original deadline for people in the 36 states currently served by the federal healthcare exchange marketplace to sign up for coverage that would start at the first of the year. Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma are among those states.

The Obama Administration extended that deadline to December 24


after a botched opening. On Monday, the much-criticized website received 2 million visitors, and not much fewer on Christmas Eve. The administration predicts 3.3 million more will sign up by Dec. 31


, with a target of 7 million by March 31


, the deadline for open enrollment.

However, the site advises you can still enroll for coverage starting in February, and many insurance companies will accept payment as late as January 10

for coverage starting New Yearâ??s Day.

If youâ??re on Medicaid, youâ??re considered covered and you shouldnâ??t have to enroll.

Fourteen states have already set up their own state-run health insurance programs, but Texas is not among them. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the nation, at 28.8 percent, which is about 6 million people. The Health and Human Services Commission estimates 40 percent of those uninsured Texans would qualify for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, federal â??navigatorsâ?? will help guide people through the marketplace and the buying process. Some Texas lawmakers saw that mandate as a concerning expansion of federal powers into state matters.

In the last legislative session, the Texas Legislature enacted Senate Bill 1795, which directs theTexas Department of Insurance to set up a set of rules and regulations meant to oversee those navigators.

In an HRO bill analysis, supporters of the bill argued,

â??SB 1795 would protect consumers in health benefit exchanges while preserving the programâ??s ability to expand access to health care. The bill would ensure navigators were qualified, properly trained, and impartial by establishing essential consumer protections regardless of the outcome of federal rulemaking.â??

Opponents questioned the need and the scope of the agencyâ??s power, arguing,

â??SB 1795 would be an unnecessary expansion of government â?¦ It also would set a precedent for future increases in the federal governmentâ??s power to tax and regulate. The bill would be a premature reaction to an evolving federal mandate.â??

The Texas Department of Insurance recently completed their proposed rules, which include provisions for standardized education requirements, criminal background checks, and limitations on the power of those navigators.

At a public hearing on Dec. 16


, TDI Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin Brady said, â??The proposed TDI rules are necessary to provide a state solution to help and protect Texas consumers by ensuring the security of their private information.

There will be a second public hearing on January 6


, 2014.

If youâ??d like to learn whether youâ??re eligible to enroll or just learn more about your options, follow the links attached to this story.