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Things Oklahomans should know as open enrollment under Affordable Care Act begins Saturday

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TULSA, Oklahoma — Thousands of Oklahomans are expected to participate in the open enrollment period under the federal Affordable Care Act beginning this weekend.

Open enrollment starts Saturday and runs until Feb. 15. Residents can enroll in the health marketplace, renew or change their plan options during this period. People interested in enrolling can go to HealthCare.gov to view premiums for 2015 without creating an account or logging in.

Oklahoma says more than 69,000 residents enrolled in the health care marketplace for 2014 plans.

State officials and nonprofits assisting residents in the enrollment process say they expect the technical glitches that plagued the first enrollment period to be smoothed out during the second enrollment period.

The federal government estimates that more that 7.1 million Americans have enrolled in the health care marketplace.


ENROLLEES:

The state says 69,221 Oklahomans enrolled in federal marketplace 104 health care plans. Oklahoma Insurance Department spokeswoman Kelly Dexter says thousands more residents are expected to enroll in insurance plans via the exchange for 2015.


RED STATE REALITIES:

The Republican-dominated state Legislature has generally resisted attempts to improve participation in the health marketplace, and state agencies aren't promoting it. GOP Gov. Mary Fallin rejected a Medicaid expansion that would have provided affordable insurance to hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans. Consequently, some Oklahomans may have a difficult time finding key information about open enrollment under the federal health care act.


PITCHING NONETHELESS:

Even with those political realities, the most significant outreach effort is being managed by the Oklahoma Primary Care Association, which represents 19 federally qualified health centers, and the Little Dixie Community Action Agency. The statewide 2-1-1 program also provides information to the uninsured and connects them with marketplace navigators and assisters.

Other nonprofits are also getting the word out on open enrollment and helping to guide those living in hard-to-reach areas to sign up for a federal marketplace plan. Myron Anderson, health resource advocate manager for the nonprofit Morton Comprehensive Health Services, says his agency and others are holding forums and distributing brochures to educate residents about the federal health marketplace option.


IRONING OUT THE KINKS:

State organizations and nonprofits say they're hoping the technical kinks that plagued the initial enrollment process have been worked out at HealthCare.gov.


PREMIUMS ROLLERCOASTER:

The average rate for 2015 is expected to rise by between 9 percent and 10 percent. Oklahomans will be able to choose from six different companies offering multiple plans. Rate renewals for 2015 policies range from a decrease of 9.1 percent to an increase of 29 percent. The actual rate for an individual depends on several factors, including age, geographical location and tobacco use, according to the insurance department. Dexter, the department spokeswoman, attributes the rise in premiums to several factors including "the cost of doing business" in today's health care industry and the insufficient enrollment of younger participants.


BUGS IN THE SYSTEM:

State agencies have received few complaints from marketplace enrollees who experienced difficulties in seeing their doctors or specialists, Dexter said. She says the insurance department will monitor complaints during the second enrollment period.

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