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U.S. President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the Affordable Care Act at Prince George U.S. President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the Affordable Care Act at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Maryland September 26, 2013. Obama on Tuesday highlighted the benefits of U.S. healthcare reform, a week before one of the controversial law's key elements, new insurance exchanges, go live. Millions of uninsured Americans will be able to sign up for coverage under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform beginning on Oct. 1, kicking off the most sweeping social program since the launch of Medicare for the elderly in the 1960s. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque   

Illinois exchange warns thousands they may have to reapply for Obamacare

Less than a week before the deadline to sign up for insurance coverage, Illinois is contacting thousands of customers announcing that they might have to redo their applications for Obamacare.

Illinois’s exchange, run in a partnership with the federal government through HealthCare.gov, has been referring applicants it deemed eligible for Medicaid coverage to the federal government instead.

But in response to growing complaints, state officials announced Wednesday they’re in the midst of calling and emailing the 30,000 exchange customers sent to Medicaid to tell them to do their applications all over again if they believe they were mistakenly pegged for the low-income program.

Illinois Department of Insurance spokesman Mike Claffey said that many Illinoisans who were sent into Medicaid when they applied for coverage believe they were incorrectly rejected from buying private coverage on the exchange.

The problem originated in the state’s own Obamacare website, Get Covered Illinois. Customers must first go through an online screening tool which determines whether they’re eligible for Medicaid or to purchase insurance on the exchange. The site then sends customers either to Illinois’s Medicaid enrollment site or HealthCare.gov.

Medicaid enrollment is expected to increase. President Barack Obama’s home state opted to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, extending eligibility to another 342,000 Illinoisans, and even states that didn’t expand the program have seen increased enrollment due to increased awareness.

It’s unsurprising that a large number of Illinois residents are pushing back, however, as Medicaid coverage, often low-cost or even free, provides notoriously limited care, with few doctors accepting new Medicaid patients.

State officials are now directing customers that disagree with the recommendation to enroll in Medicaid to start again at the screening tool, according to Fox News. Once they’re sent to HealthCare.gov, customers will now have to create a brand new account with a different email and submit a new application.

The state’s late announcement is leaving Illinois consumers with just four days to navigate HealthCare.gov before the Dec. 23 deadline to purchase insurance for Jan. 1.

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