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Friday is the last day to enroll in a health insurance plan through healthcare.gov, the federal government's insurance exchange. Enrollment has been strong so far this year, but NPR's Alison Kodjak reports it probably will not reach last year's level, in part because the Trump administration cut the enrollment period in half.
ALISON KODJAK, BYLINE: I'm in a little office park in suburban Virginia talking with Brima Bob Deen. He works at a job training center called Salvation Academy, and he's also an enrollment counselor for Affordable Care Act health plans. As we chat, his phone rings
BRIMA BOB DEEN: Yes, this is Mr. Deen from Salvation Academy, remember, the guy that was helping you with your affordable health care.
KODJAK: Deen talks with the client for about 10 minutes. He checks whether the client had filled out his application correctly. Last week, they had problems with the email address. Deen has spent the last five weeks helping people, mostly immigrants who live in northern Virginia, choose and sign up for ACA health plans.
DEEN: Yesterday, I have a client - she has difficulties in choosing the plan based on her tax credits and her qualification. She has these bunch of plans, and there's silver, there's gold, and she's just confused.
KODJAK: He explained to her the copayments and deductibles in each plan and helped her sign up. This week, he says, he's totally booked.
DEEN: Every year, when you get close to the end, that's when you have a lot of people come in.
KODJAK: And that's what advocates of the Affordable Care Act are counting on. As of Sunday, about 4.7 million people had enrolled in a health plan and more than a million of them were new customers. That's more than signed up in the first six weeks of last year.
LORI LODES: So we are seeing record demand. People want to get health coverage. And it also means that people are finding affordable coverage when they actually shop and they sign up.
KODJAK: That's Lori Lodes, who ran outreach for healthcare.gov during the Obama administration and is now leading an effort called Get America Covered.
LODES: The problem is that the enrollment period is cut in half.
KODJAK: And Friday is the last day to enroll, at least for people buying insurance through the federal marketplace. Several states run their own exchanges, and those enrollment periods usually last longer. Lodes' group has been enlisting big names to help drum up awareness...
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MARTIN SHEEN: First...
BRADLEY WHITFORD: You got to sign up.
SHEEN: You got to sign up.
WHITFORD: You got to sign up.
SHEEN: Open enrollment is happening right now.
KODJAK: ...For example with actors Martin Sheen and Bradley Whitford, who recorded that YouTube video urging people to sign up. Former President Barack Obama has been on Twitter reminding people to enroll, and earlier this week, comedian Jimmy Kimmel gave healthcares.gov a plug on his show.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!")
JIMMY KIMMEL: Obamacare is not dead. It's very much alive. Millions of people qualify for reduced rate or even totally free plans, but you only have...
KODJAK: Trump administration officials declined requests for an interview. But a spokesman says the healthcare.gov website and call centers are working smoothly and handling the final week's volume. Still, unless there's a giant surge in sign-ups in the next three days, analysts say it's hard to see how enrollment could reach last year's level. Alison Kodjak, NPR News.
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