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Monday Deadline Looms For Federal Health Exchange Coverage

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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — The deadline is looming for people looking for insurance under the federal health exchange program if they want their coverage to start in January.

Monday is the last day to sign up.

Officials have already pushed the deadline back a week and it’s still unclear whether everyone who wants to enroll will actually be able to because of lingering problems with the federal website.

And even if consumers do enroll on time, they could find themselves at a doctor’s office in January without coverage because of incomplete enrollment files the federal government sent electronically to insurers. Federal health officials have said they’ve fixed the bulk of those problems and are calling and emailing consumers stressing they aren’t formally enrolled unless they’ve paid their first month’s premium.

All the uncertainty has created a frenzied waiting game to see whether the fruits of the Obama administration’s enrollment efforts will pay off with seamless coverage for new enrollees next month.

The biggest obstacles may be yet to come with many consumers unfamiliar with having health insurance and feeling confused by deductibles, co-pays and tiered prescription drug plans. Florida consumers can choose from roughly 100 plans, the second-highest of any state.

Many are choosing bronze plans because they are attracted to the initial low-cost monthly premium.

In Florida, those premiums range from $128 to $459 for a 27-year-old and from $390 to $1,400 for a family of three including parents in their 40s, according to an analysis conducted for The Associated Press by Chicago-based Stonegate Advisors, an independent health care research and consulting company. The figures do not include tax subsidies.

“Price is the biggest factor without any question at all,” said John Foley, an attorney and certified counselor for Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County

But many don’t understand that low cost premiums come with a high-end deductible. In Florida, plans will have deductibles ranging from $1,500 in a platinum plan to $6,350 in a bronze plan, according to the Stonegate analysis.

Only 14 percent of American adults with insurance understand deductibles and other key concepts of coverage plans, according to a study published this year in the Journal of Health Economics. That’s not a good sign for many entering the federal marketplace who haven’t had insurance before. About 3.5 million Floridians lack health coverage — one of the highest rates in the nation.

If they make poor decisions when shopping for insurance for the first time, they may be surprised that the law’s promise of affordable care, for them, is still out of reach.

“You better budget because you need to make sure that you have money to go to the doctor and you have the money up front,” said Foley, who cautions consumers to plan for those out of pockets costs.

Floridians rushed to sign up for coverage in the days leading up to Monday’s deadline. Navigator Allie Stern enrolled 10 people at a Fort Lauderdale office on Thursday. She was on a roll again Friday when the website crashed.

The website sprang back to life shortly before the president’s news conference later Friday afternoon.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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