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Now’s the Time to Enroll in Marketplace Health Plans

December 14, 2016 at 11:15 AM

People who want to sign up for health plans in the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual marketplaces must do so by December 15 for their coverage to start on January 1. The open enrollment period — when people can newly enroll in a plan or change plans — runs until January 31, but coverage for people signing up after December 15 won’t start until February or March.  This is also the time for people with coverage in 2016 to evaluate how plans have changed and whether the marketplace offers a better plan for them.

ACA enrollment is increasingly popular this year.  In the first month of open enrollment, over 2.1 million people signed up for marketplace plans through HealthCare.gov — out-pacing sign-ups at the beginning of last year’s open enrollment period.  State-based marketplaces are also seeing an uptick in signups. In Colorado 23 percent more people signed up compared to this time last year.

With enrollment, everyone gets preventive benefits at no cost, coverage for checkups and prescriptions, and financial protection in case they incur significant medical costs during the year. In addition, the vast majority of people who sign up for coverage are eligible for substantial subsidies to help them pay for their marketplace plans.

The ACA has reduced the uninsured rate for non-elderly adults by 37 percent.  Some 42 percent of all uninsured are eligible for assistance through Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and subsidized marketplace plans, the Urban Institute estimates. While Medicaid and CHIP are available all year, time is running out for people to enroll in marketplace coverage.  Only people who lose other coverage or experience significant life changes such as marriage or childbirth can sign up after open enrollment ends.

With news of Republican plans to repeal the ACA, some consumers may be waiting to see what will happen. They should be certain, however, that health coverage will be available this coming year for the newly enrolled.


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