If you haven’t enrolled and need healthcare coverage, the time is now — especially since the Republican Congress under President-elect Donald Trump is poised to eliminate the program. It isn’t too late
You have between now and Jan. 30 to find out if you are eligible for and secure health care coverage for 2017.
If you miss this the Open Enrollment Period, you have to wait until Nov. 2017 to enroll for 2018, assuming there will still be an American plan. For now, the Affordable Care Act is still in place and Americans should follow the law, get covered, or be subject to a fine.
If you miss the Jan. 30 deadline, you can only enroll during the balance of 2017 if you have a significant life event, such as the loss of a job, the birth of a baby, or a change in marital status.
It Will Help to be Prepared
Enroll online at https://www.healthcare.gov or in person in your community. But know going in that the process can be complicated.
Before you start, here’s what you need to have accessible:
• Names, birth dates and Social Security numbers for everyone in the household
• Projected household income for 2017
• Tax information, such as filing status and number of dependents
• Immigration documentation and supporting identification numbers
• A completed Employer Coverage Tool for every job-based plan that anyone in your household is eligible for
• An email address, which is required to create an online Marketplace account. Assistance can be provided for those who need to create one.
Plan on spending at least 90 minutes to complete the forms.
You Can Pay Now or Pay Later
Pick your plan wisely. Some more elaborate Gold and Platinum plans have higher premiums, but they will ultimately cover more of your medical bills. If you know you have to schedule or undergo a costly procedure this year, a Gold or Platinum plan, however expensive, might still end up being the better value.
Other plans include a Bronze or, Silver high-deductible plan. Silver plans, which cover about 70% of healthcare costs incurred by patients, are the most popular options.
Always compare levels between insurers. A Bronze plan from one provider could actually give you more coverage than a Gold plan from another. And remember that, the lower the premium, the higher the deductibles or out-of-pocket costs that you have to fulfill before your insurance kicks in.
You Still Have to Budget for Monthly Expenses
Enrolling in a plan isn’t the last step in being covered for the year. When you select the plan you want, you will be quoted a monthly premium. You’ll need to pay premiums on time or your coverage will be cancelled and you could be subject to the tax penalties for not having coverage.
Don’t Give Up And Go Without — You Could Face Penalties
If you don’t have health care coverage now either through an employer subsidized plan or a government program such as Medicaid or Medicare, you must enroll in a qualified plan by January 30, or you could be subject to an IRS penalty of 2.5 percent of your household income or $695 per individual and $347.50 per child.