One week left to sign up for health insurance that starts January 1st

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- If you're buying health insurance through the new federal exchange and you want it to kick in by January 1st, you have one week to sign up! That was the message from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and other top officials on Monday, December 16th. Meanwhile, some critics say the enrollment push is all about politics.

"None of this is political.  This is all about healthcare," Dr. Julie Doniere said.

Dr. Doniere is an emergency room doctor who says the public must take politics out of medicine.

"I've heard a lot of naysayers who say, 'it's not gonna work.'  It's not gonna work if you don't sign up. This whole process will not work if you don't sign up," Dr. Doniere said.

Dr. Doniere on Monday welcomed Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and City Health Commissioner Bevan Baker into the state's busiest emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital in Milwaukee.

"Every single shift I work, I see people who shouldn't be here," Dr. Doniere said.

Of the 83,000 patients who walk into the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital every year, 20% do not have insurance.

"This means they didn't have access to preventive care or primary care and are often using the emergency department as the front door for that care," Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare President Debra Standridge said.

Mayor Barrett and healthcare leaders are now encouraging folks to sign up, with a specific date in mind.

If you want health insurance starting on January 1st, you have only one week to sign up. The deadline is December 23rd.

"You have to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act if you want to be covered on January 1, 2014," Mayor Barrett said Monday.

The law's critics say Mayor Barrett is spending his time trying to prop up a failed policy.

Nick Novak with the MacIver Institute -- a conservative research organization in Madison is one of the critics of the law.

"They continue to try to promote this unpopular law.  If it was truly a popular law and people wanted to sign up for this insurance and it was affordable, you would see people going to the website in droves to purchase that insurance," Novak said.

Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan Baker could not provide statistics on the number of people the city of Milwaukee has signed up -- but the number statewide is reportedly below 10,000 so far.

"There's a lot of politics around the Affordable Care Act. From my perspective, what this is all about is making sure people in America who need healthcare can have healthcare at an affordable price," Mayor Barrett said.

CLICK HERE to view the Milwaukee Enrollment Directory -- put together as a resource for Impact 211 -- a service that has been helping folks in Milwaukee sign up for health insurance.