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WASHINGTON – An Obama administration deadline for people to clear up problems with their applications for health insurance, which they may already have, has caught some by surprise and could affect many Latinos and immigrants.
The administration said it began sending notices this week to people from whom they need more information about their immigration status or citizenship, warning they must get the needed documents within about three weeks.
The notices are going to people who have not responded to previous notices sent by mail, email or made by phone, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services said in a press release issued Tuesday. People who don’t meet the Sept. 5 deadline will lose their coverage on Sept. 30.
Some clients of Insure Central Texas in Austin, which helped many Latinos and uninsured sign up for Obamacare, have been receiving notices all summer without a deadline.
“The deadline is a surprise. We were not aware of the Sept. 5 deadline,” Colvin said.
Generally, people have had 90 days to fix issues.
According to federal officials, 52,700 people in Texas are getting notices on what the government calls “citizenship/immigration data matching" issues. Another 93,800 also got notices in Florida. Both are states with heavy Latino and immigrant populations.
A total 310,000 notices are going to people in states with federally run marketplaces. States running their own marketplaces are resolving their own “mismatches.” CMS said the "mismatches" can happen when information in the application is different than what the government has on file. In some cases, the problem is as simple as being one number off on an identification number.
"A data inconsistency does not necessarily mean there is a problem with an individual’s eligibility for enrollment; it means that additional information is needed to verify the information provided in an application," CMS said in the release.
For many of Insure Central Texas' clients, getting in needed paperwork is easier said than done. Many lack access to computers or scanners and literacy in English or in the language of the world of health insurance, Colvin said. Some may have had the right paperwork when they enrolled but couldn't get the documents in the HealthCare.Gov or CuidadodeSalud.gov website.
“The system didn’t work well and didn’t work during times people enrolled, so we couldn’t upload documents on many days because many times the upload feature would not work,” Colvin said. “Even now, there are some difficulties uploading documents and opening accounts.”
People who might have attended enrollment events may have found it difficult to later provide outstanding documents because they were helped in opening the account and so don’t have the user and password information to go back to the account, Colvin said. The federal government is allowing people to mail in documents and Insure Central Texas has been helping with that as well.
“This is a population that has previously been uninsured. I talked to a representative from Blue Cross Blue Shield who told me the question they used to get was ‘How much is my deductible?’ The conversation now is ‘What is a deductible?’” Colvin said.
The federal government said it has resolved about 450,000 cases with immigration or citizenship issues and is receiving about 60,000 documents a day. People with questions can contact the call center at 1-800-318-2596, the CMS said.
Because of the large learning curve on health insurance, Insure Central Texas kept its service centers operating even after the Obamacare enrollment period ended at the end of March and has been helping people with a range of issues since then.
Among them has been that many of their clients do not use banks so they’ve had trouble making payments to insurance companies. Insure Central Texas has had to work with the insurance companies to find out how and where people could send payments by money order.
The federal government has listed other local groups like Insure Central Texas who can help people who get notices on a website. The nearest group can be found by entering a city and state or zip code.