- Associated Press - Friday, March 28, 2014

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - Gov. Jack Markell and U.S. Sen. Tom Carper joined Delaware’s health and social services secretary on Friday to encourage state residents to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

With the open enrollment period for Delaware’s health insurance exchange expiring at midnight Monday, officials gathered Friday in Wilmington in a last-minute push to encourage residents to sign up for coverage.

“This is an all hands on deck moment,” said Carper, a former Navy aviator.

Enrollment in Delaware’s exchange and in similar exchanges around the country got off to a slow start in October, primarily because of technical problems with the federal health insurance website, but has grown steadily since then.

“It has been a bumpy road, which has been unfortunate for everyone, but when you get past the politics, this is about real people,” Markell said in a visit to Westside Family Healthcare, a nonprofit community health center.

Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf said more than 50 enrollment opportunities are scheduled at locations around the state from Saturday morning through Monday night.

Federal officials reported earlier this month that slightly more than 6,500 Delawareans had signed up on the exchange, although it’s unclear how many have actually paid for coverage.

Delaware officials initially had hoped to enroll 35,000 of the roughly 90,000 uninsured Delaware residents for coverage, but federal officials set a much lower target last fall of 8,000 enrollments.

“We have met that benchmark, and we’re still enrolling,” Landgraf said.

Markell said state officials won’t have updated enrollment numbers until April 10.

“They’re better than they were, they’re not what any of us would like them to be,” he acknowledged.

While officials are focused on increasing the enrollment numbers, Markell said a more critical issue is transitioning from a “sick care” system of health care delivery to a system that focuses on wellness and prevention in order to drive down costs.

“I actually think that’s a bigger story than the Affordable Care Act,” he said.

Carper agreed, saying the country has a “moral imperative” to look out for people who do not have health care coverage.

“We have a fiscal imperative to meet the moral imperative in a cost-effective way,” he added.

Kristen Roach, 26, a University of Delaware graduate who is working two part-time jobs while preparing to apply for UD’s nursing program, said signing up for health insurance in Delaware’s exchange has given her a sense of security, but that she wouldn’t have been able to afford it without the subsidies offered under the Affordable Care Act.

Roach said she pays about $100 a month for coverage, with subsidies of about $350 a month.

“It’s been pretty awesome,” she said.

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