The 2018 open enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace began Wednesday, Nov. 1, and runs from through Dec. 15, 2017. This enrollment period is 45 days shorter than in previous years, so those seeking insurance coverage that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018, are urged to start the process now.
More than eight out of 10 people who enroll in health coverage through HealthCare.gov qualify for financial help to make their monthly premiums more affordable. Signing up for a quality insurance plan might be cheaper than you think.
The Panhandle Community Services office in Wheeler (806.826.0041) stands ready to help you with trained enrollment specialists who will provide free, in-person assistance. At your appointment, they’ll talk you through your options and share other important advice, including how to qualify for financial help, how to start an application, or how to enroll.
The Health Insurance Marketplace was created by the Affordable Care Act (also known as ObamaCare) for people who don’t have health coverage. If you don’t have health insurance through a job, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or another source that provides qualifying health coverage, the Marketplace can help you get covered.
If you have job-based insurance, you can still buy a plan through the Marketplace, but you’ll pay full price unless your employer’s insurance doesn’t meet certain standards. Most job-based plans do meet the standards.
If you have Medicare, you cannot qualify for Marketplace insurance or use it to supplement your coverage.
What you pay for Marketplace insurance depends on your income. To determine if your income level qualifies you for savings, go online to http://www.healthcare.gov/lower-costs/ and answer a few simple questions. Based on your income estimate, you can determine whether you qualify for:
A health insurance plan with savings based on your income
You may qualify for a premium tax credit that lowers your monthly insurance bill, and for extra savings on out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and copayments. The plans are offered by private insurance companies with a range of prices and features.
Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Medicaid and CHIP provide free or low-cost coverage to millions of people and families with limited income, disabilities, and some other situations. Many states are expanding Medicaid to cover all households below certain incomes. See if your state is expanding and if your income is in range to qualify. Your children may qualify for CHIP even if you don’t qualify for Medicaid.
After December 15, you can only enroll in 2018 health insurance if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. You qualify if you experience certain life events, including losing health coverage, moving, getting married, having a baby or adopting a child.
To sign up for a health plan under the ACA, Texans can go directly to the online Health Insurance Marketplace in this state, or get help in person or over the phone. By going online to healthcare.gov, you can provide some basic information and browse through a list of various health insurance options available. If you see a plan you like, you’ll be guided through the enrollment process online.
If you need more help understanding your coverage options or signing up for a plan, you can get assistance from a trained navigator, or from a health insurance broker or agent.
Navigators can explain your options, answer your questions, and help you apply for the plan you choose—but they cannot recommend a specific plan for you. Private insurance agents or brokers can also help you understand your coverage options, and are also allowed to suggest the best plan for you.
TO APPLY FOR COVERAGE
Starting November 1, you have a choice of five ways to apply for Marketplace coverage.
• Online – If you are new to the Marketplace, go online to http://www.healthcare.gov/create-account and create an account. If you already have an account, go online to http://www.healthcare.gov/login and log in.
• By phone – A customer service representative helps you fill out an application, review your choices and enroll in coverage. To apply, contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1.800.318.2596 (TTY: 1.855.889.4325). The call center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with exceptions for Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
• With in-person help – Assisters in your community with special Marketplace training help you fill out an application and enroll. Residents of this area can may contact the Panhandle Community Services office in Wheeler by calling 806.826.0041. For a list of other numbers, go online to http://localhelp.healthcare.gov/#/ and enter your city and state, or ZIP code.
• Through an agent or broker – Agents and brokers help you apply and enroll. You pay no more with an agent or broker, though some may sell only certain companies’ plans. For a list of numbers, go online to http://localhelp.healthcare.gov/#/ and enter your city and state or ZIP code.
• By mail – Fill out and mail in a paper application, which can be downloaded at http://marketplace.cms.gov/applications-and-forms/marketplace-application-for-family.pdf. Instructions to help you with the application process are available at http://marketplace.cms.gov/applications-and-forms/marketplace-application-for-family-instructions.pdf.