Mayor Mike Duggan and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services talk about the Affordable Care Act at the Northwest Activity Center in Detroit. (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)
Detroit — U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius urged more Detroiters and Michiganians on Wednesday to sign up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act by the April 1 deadline.
A Monday report showed more than 75,500 Michigan residents signed up for health care on the federal exchange through Dec. 28 — up 11-fold from the end of November and twice the rate of the nationwide increase. Nationally, nearly 2.2 million registered through December, a 490 percent increase from 365,000 people enrolled through federal and state-run exchanges in October and November.
“We are thrilled there are three months left to make sure people get the word that affordable, available health care is at their fingertips, easy to access and for the first time can give them the peace of mind they never had. It’s a brand new day,” Sebelius said.
Individuals who are not on employer health plans are required by federal law to sign up for health insurance that must meet minimum include coverage standards, including maternity, prescription, hospitalization and mental health care.
The federal HealthCare.gov website, which consumers use to research plans and sign up for coverage, was dogged in its first two months by technical problems and outages.
Mayor Mike Duggan has compiled a group of 60 nonprofit and public health care agencies to help spread the word of enrolling for health plans. The city’s 10 community access centers are also available to help residents sign up.
“Every day in our hospital systems, we see heart-breaking stories of people who end up losing a foot or a leg because diabetes had progressed and they hadn’t gotten in to see a doctor (and) people who have their lives devastated by a heart attack,” said Duggan, former CEO of the Detroit Medical Center. “You don’t want to go to the emergency room when it’s too late. You can get health care now.”
LaNika Wise, an actress and volleyball coach, said she recently signed up for a health care plan for $92 a month. Wise, who lives in Flint, said she had been uninsured for five years before she signed up on Dec. 21. She called the process simple.
A visit to an emergency room for a mild concussion led her to sign up at the urging of her father. Wise said she received her medical card on Jan. 2.
“I think that concussion kind of knocked some sense into me,” Wise said. “I felt like I had a new lease on life. I felt like I could take charge of the year because I could take charge of my health. I feel confident and secure. I’m thankful and grateful for the Affordable Care Act.”
The conservative Heritage Foundation and other critics noted the Monday Health and Human Services report showed 24 percent of enrollees in the health care exchanges are young adults aged 18 to 34 — far less than the 38 percent threshold the Obama administration said last year it would need for the Affordable Care Act to work.
White House officials said Monday they were confident they could get an appropriate mix of enrollees to make the health law work.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land criticized Sebelius on Wednesday, saying the secretary needed to take responsibility for the “train wreck law and apologize to Michigan families” whose health insurance was suspended for not meeting federal coverage mandates.