Those who begin health care enrollment by midnight can finish later

The first wave of people to obtain health insurance through the Affordable Care Act will receive coverage Jan. 1 as long as they began the online enrollment process before midnight Monday.

Some media outlets reported Monday that the deadline had been extended in Kentucky and through the national website,

But Gwenda Bond, spokeswoman for the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said that was not the case.

Instead, she said, the federal government and states running individual exchanges would make sure that people who began the application before the clock struck midnight would be able to finish and be eligible for Jan.1 coverage.

Bond compared it to allowing those standing in line when polls close to vote in an election.

Jan. 1 is the earliest possible date to obtain coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which requires nearly every American to sign up for health insurance or face a penalty. Overall enrollment runs through March 31. There is a rolling schedule of when other policies become active after the first wave.

Kentucky had about 640,000 uninsured residents when enrollment began Oct. 1. Since then, about 100,000 have signed up to pay for private insurance or to receive government-financed coverage through Medicaid. State statistics on the last-minute surge will be released Friday.

Kentucky has received national praise for its enrollment efforts through Increasing the capacity of the online system by 80 percent and training 3,000 government workers to help people file for insurance were among the steps taken in anticipation of the Dec. 23 deadline and expected surge, according to a news release Monday from Gov. Steve Beshear.

The call center that provides assistance added 50 operators for a total of 150 and added Sunday hours to deal with the increase, Bond said.

By comparison, the national website had been plagued with technical problems in its first couple of months. That site is handling enrollment for states that chose not to create individual programs.

Affordable Care Act:

Also known as Obama care, it is a law that requires every American to sign up for health insurance by March 31 or face a penalty. The website, or exchange, for Kentuckians to enroll in insurance. Since it opened Oct. 1, about 100,000 Kentuckians have enrolled.

■ To learn more, go to Kynect.Ky.Gov or call 1-855-459-6328.

■ Also, check with your local library or health department to see if they have "navigators" who can help with the process. Those eligible for Medicaid may sign up in person at Department for Community Based Services offices.

■ To see county by county enrollment numbers, go to Governor.Ky.Gov/healthierky.

It is the federal website being used by most states to comply with the federal law and enroll those with health insurance in new policies. Early on, it was hindered by technical glitches and enrolled fewer than 25,000 Americans in the first month.