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Insurance enrollment under health overhaul moves smoothly this year in Iowa


DES MOINES, Iowa — Round two of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul appeared to be moving more smoothly in Iowa as a key deadline approached.

Monday night marked the deadline for new customers to enroll in insurance to start Jan. 1 and for those with current coverage to make any changes for next year.

So far, everything is working well, said Cliff Gold, CEO of CoOportunity Health, a federally funded nonprofit established to provide health care in Iowa and Nebraska. Last year, the enrollment period was stymied by a poorly functioning website and widespread public confusion.

"It's working light years better than last year. We're only hearing sporadic issues of any problems. It's generally resolvable pretty quickly. We're hearing very few complaints," Gold said.

Open enrollment continues until Feb. 15.

The health care law was designed to reduce the number of people without health insurance, both through an expansion of Medicaid and with new marketplaces where people can shop for private coverage and apply for government aid to pay premiums.

Just over 29,000 people signed up for insurance in Iowa using the federal marketplace during the first enrollment period. About 115,000 more people are enrolled in Iowa's modified Medicaid expansion, a federally funded program that enrolls some people in a state-run health plan, while others get premiums covered for private insurance.

Iowa is among 37 states using as their insurance marketplace. Those who want to see if they qualify for federal subsidies to help pay for coverage must apply through the site. Penalties for people who don't have insurance increase in 2015.

Shanette White, an enrollment navigator with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland who is working in Iowa, said the enrollment process has been "100 times better this year."

"A lot of consumers I have talked to have been able to get online and complete the process themselves," said White. She said most of the people she sees qualify for the expanded Medicaid program.

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