AUSTIN - Despite a shortened healthcare enrollment period, Foundation Communities in Austin said they saw an increase in sign-ups this year.
"We had a 22 percent increase in marketplace enrollments," said Elizabeth Colvin, the non-profit's director of insurance.
Last year, the enrollment period was 90 days -- twice as long as this year's enrollment period of 45 days.
"We had 155 volunteers who certified to help people get enrolled. That greatly increased our capacity to serve a lot more people," explained Colvin.
In total, they had an 87 percent increase in volunteer hours to make up for the deficit.
Colvin also noted that they encountered a difference in advertisement funding avenues this session, after the Donald Trump administration cut federally-funded advertisements for sign-ups by about 90 percent.
"We extended our hours. We were open seven days a week. We did a lot more advertising and outreach, grassroots outreach and working with media to get the word out," said Colvin.
As the future of the Affordable Care Act remains a point of emphasis among lawmakers, clients had a lot of questions.
"There was a lot of confusion about whether people could still get insurance, whether Obamacare still existed, whether there was still a mandate. All of these things created a lot of confusion this year, which required a lot more education, a lot more outreach to let people know, 'Yes, you can get insurance, this is your chance, but you only have this limited time to sign up,''' Colvin explained.
In total, Foundation Communities helped enroll 5,323 people. While open enrollment is finished for most people, those affected by Hurricane Harvey were granted a special extension.
"For individuals in select counties – and that includes Travis, Bastrop and Caldwell in our area -- then counties south of us that were affected by Harvey. For individuals in those counties impacted by Harvey, they can have until Dec. 31 to enroll," said Colvin.
People impacted by Hurricanes Irma or Maria are also eligible for the extended sign-up period.
To learn more about qualifications for extended enrollment, go here.
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