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SSA Hearing Backlog Tops 1 Million While Obamacare Ad Budget Slashed, Though Insurance Still Available

The Trump Administration has cut the advertising budget for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, open enrollment period this fall by 90 percent. The remaining $10 million will be spent not on TV ads, but the focus will be on radio and digital ads.Funding for navigators, the people who help enrollees through the process of finding insurance, is also being cut, by 41 percent. The navigator groups will receive $37 million.

The open enrollment period itself is being cut in half. Last year, the window to sign up for 2017 insurance was from Nov. 1, 2016 through Jan. 31, 2017. This year, the enrollment period is only six weeks, from Nov. 1 until Dec. 15.

Resources for Insurance Enrollment Available

If you don’t have health insurance, you can sign up during this fall’s open enrollment period for 2018 coverage. In New Mexico, the health insurance exchange is https://www.bewellnm.com/. For help buying insurance on the exchanges, you can speak with an enrollment counselor. There are several enrollment centers around New Mexico, where enrollment counselors can help you get health insurance.

Enrollment counselors can help you find insurance on the exchange, but they cannot give you advice on which plan might be best for you. An insurance broker can give you advice about choosing the right plan, and according to https://www.bewellnm.com/, an insurance broker is compensated by the insurance company, not by you.

Health Insurance Still Matters If You’re Applying for Disability

Recently, the wait list for disability hearings at the Social Security Administration topped 1 million cases. The average wait time for a hearing has risen over the past few years to 602 days, as of Sept. 18. Last year, 7400 people on the wait list had already died waiting for their hearings. The nearly two-year wait is longer than many disabled people have left to wait.

Congress appropriated $90 million in its Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 for the SSA to reduce its hearing backlog. SSA’s plan, called Compassionate and Responsive Services (CARES) had not met its goals of lowering both the average wait time for a hearing and the number of hearings pending by June 2017.

SSA attributes its difficulties in lowering the backlog to insufficient support staff, although it has hired more Administrative Law Judges in the past few years. Hiring freezes, both within the SSA and government-wide, have contributed to this problem. Unfortunately, even with adequate funding from Congress, SSA only expects to reach its processing time goal of 270 days in 2022.

In conclusion, Obamacare health insurance is still available for 2018, even though it’s not being promoted, and there is help available to get insurance on the exchanges and to find a plan that’s right for you. If you’re seeking disability benefits and waiting for a hearing, be sure you have health insurance in place for 2018—the wait for a disability hearing is long and it’s not going to get better anytime soon.

Related: Medicaid Expansion’s Major Impact in New Mexico; What Should You Do If Your Disability Application Is Denied?