BISMARCK Applications for coverage under North Dakota's Medcaid Expansion have trickled in since the program opened last October.
Even with a March 31 federal deadline for the uninsured to get health coverage or pay penalties, Julie Schwab, director of Medical Services in the North Dakota Department of Human Services, said applications likely will remain at a slow and steady pace.
"We anticipate that this steady stream of applications will continue to come in because we don't have the enrollment period. They can continue to apply for Medicaid Expansion or traditional Medicaid throughout the year," Schwab said.
Through last December, the state had received about 4,000 applications. That compares with the department's projection to cover an additional 20,000 residents. The Kaiser Family Foundation had projected Medicaid Expansion could cover more than 30,000 residents.
Schwab said the program may have started slowly because of public concerns over glitches in the national healthcare exchange website.
"I think people were just sort of waiting to see what was happening," she said.
Many of those who have applied found out they were eligible by going to the government website, she added.
Signup also may be slow because people tend to wait until they need health care to look for insurance options, Schwab said. The March 31 deadline to acquire insurance might not seem pressing for people who consider the first-year penalty on the mandate to be low, she said.
Schwab said the department still is projecting coverage for 20,500 residents, The department will be reviewing the data after March 31 to identify any trends.
Traditional Medicaid numbers also have stayed stable, although there are some applicants for the expansion program who are finding they qualify for traditional Medicaid, Schwab said.
Besides going through (www.healthcare.gov), people can apply for Medicaid Expansion through their county social service offices, by contacting the Department of Human Services at 328-2321 or by accessing the department website. The department has information about eligibility and program details at (www.nd.gov/dhs/medicaidexpansion).
Residents aged 19 to 65 with qualifying incomes may be eligible. People may qualify if income is less than $15,856 for a single person or $32,499 for a family of four. There is no asset test.