Most Americans have until late Saturday night to enroll in or change their medical coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance Marketplace. Consumers who don’t act before the deadline will have to wait until next year to sign up for or switch plans.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported this week that enrollment in ACA plans is lagging by 20 percent over this time last year. Some possible reasons for that difference include that Americans who don’t sign up for health insurance no longer face a financial penalty, that the federal government has allowed the expansion of cheaper, short-term insurance policies that aren’t required to offer ACA-compliant comprehensive health coverage, and that many Americans remain unaware that it’s time to enroll, according to recent public opinion surveys. In addition, CMS has spent less on outreach and marketing to advertise this year than in previous open enrollment periods.
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There’s still time to shop on healthcare.gov. You have until midnight Pacific time Saturday and 3 a.m. Eastern time Sunday to file your application. CMS said this week that some consumers who ask for help from the Marketplace Call Center may be asked to leave their contact information and might not get a call back in time to meet the Dec. 15 deadline. Those people will be allowed to come back to healthcare.gov and complete their applications in time to get coverage as of Jan. 1.
Also, if you live in these six states or the District of Columbia, you will have a little more time to sign up for coverage or to change your current plan:
- California — Jan. 15, 2019
- Colorado — Jan. 15, 2019
- District of Columbia — Jan. 31, 2019
- Massachusetts — Jan. 23, 2019
- Minnesota — Jan. 13, 2019
- New York — Jan. 31, 2019
- Rhode Island — Dec. 31, 2018
If you are still deciding on a plan and have questions, resources are available. CMS, which oversees the ACA, has a call center (800-318-2596) staffed with operators seven days a week, 24 hours a day. You can also click on local help at healthcare.gov to find experts in your area who can walk you through the enrollment process.