WASHINGTON, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- It may not be too late for those who have canceled health insurance and had trouble accessing the federal health insurance online marketplace, officials say.
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters at a Tuesday telephone news conference it may not be too late for those who have health insurance cancellation letters and missed the Dec. 24th deadline to purchase health insurance effective for Jan. 1.
Those who bought health insurance because their employer did not provide health insurance and this health insurance was canceled Dec. 31 can call a special hotline -- 1-866-837-0677 -- dedicated for consumers with cancelled policies for help.
A representative will help find coverage that begins in 2014. They can explain the options available for replacing or renewing a canceled plan. Call between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. EST Monday through Friday and between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday, and New Year's Day.
If the plans available in the Marketplace are unaffordable, you might be eligible for a "hardship" exemption, which will allow you to buy catastrophic coverage, HHS officials said.
"To buy this coverage, complete a hardship exemption form, indicate that your policy has been canceled and that you believe the marketplace options in your area are unaffordable. You will then need to provide this form along with a copy of your cancellation notice to an insurance company offering catastrophic coverage in your area and apply directly with them. The hotline can help with questions about this option," the federal marketplace website said.
"We are working around the clock to make sure that anyone who wants coverage starting on Jan.1 can get it," Sebelius said.
So far, about, 2,400 people, who have canceled insurance policies called the special hotline, Sebelius said.
"We are doing everything we can to help consumers to replace canceled insurance and deal with special circumstances," she said. "If the call center cannot make a determination the issue will go to a case worker."