Open Enrollment 2015: Everything You Need to Know

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Open enrollment for Obamacare began again on Saturday. Already 100,000 people have successfully applied for health insurance through the federal marketplace and another 400,000 have logged into HealthCare.gov.

In the last open enrollment period, more than 730,000 people got covered in Texas. Roughly 84 percent of them received financial assistance, helping bring down average monthly premiums to $72. But there are still over 5 million Texans without health insurance. Over one million of them will be forced to stay that way until our state expands Medicaid, but many more are still eligible to receive affordable health insurance and can sign up today.

Nine in ten uninsured people do not know that open enrollment has begun again. And over half of uninsured people aren’t aware of the subsidies available under the Affordable Care Act. “If you’re uninsured or don’t like the insurance you have, take a look online or visit a local enrollment center to find out how much financial assistance you can get,” said Stacey Pogue, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “There is plenty of financial assistance available to help you pay for health insurance that fits your needs and budget.”

Who is eligible to enroll?

Pretty much everyone is eligible to use the marketplace. You must be a U.S. citizen or national, live in the U.S. and cannot be a Medicare recipient or be incarcerated.

Though most of the people using the marketplace are uninsured, people who have health insurance can still shop for new plans on the marketplace. Customers who are already insured will probably not receive any subsidies, though, unless their current plan is considered unaffordable.

What if I enrolled last year? 

Most people who enrolled in marketplace plans in 2014 will be automatically re-enrolled in their existing plan or a similar plan. However, people who are already covered are still encouraged to review their current coverage and compare it to other available plans and make sure their information is up to date.

How do I enroll?

Start by filling out an application on HealthCare.gov, which will tell you which plans and subsidies are available to you. Even before you fill out an application, you can browse the 2015 plans and rates.

What’s the deadline?

Open enrollment lasts until February 15, 2015. If you miss this deadline, you can’t sign up through the marketplace for 2015 coverage unless you have a qualifying life event like getting married, having a child or moving to a new county. The other exceptions are Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), for which people can sign up any time during or outside of the open enrollment period.

December 15, 2014, is the last date to sign up for coverage that begins January 1, 2015.

What if I don’t get covered?

The price to pay for not having health insurance is getting higher. People who don’t have health insurance in 2015 will be fined the higher of 2 percent of income or $325 per adult and $162.50 per child.

That’s on top of paying for any health care costs out of pocket. “If you exercise most days, eat a healthful diet, don’t often wind up in the doctor’s office, and are basically a superhero, you might not see the point in buying insurance,” the Daily Beast points out. “But picture this: You’re running, playing basketball, or hitting the slopes when you land wrong or take a spill. If you tear your ACL and need surgery it could cost you a whopping $20,000 to $50,000 out-of-pocket if you’re uninsured.” That’s just one of the many scenarios that could cost you thousands of dollars if you’re uninsured.

You’re also missing out on preventative health care services. The Affordable Care Act covers things like vaccinations, contraception, annual gynecological exams and over two dozen different kinds of screenings for free.

Where can I get help?

If you have questions or need help filling out an application, enter your address here to find assistance near you.

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About Author

Emily Cadik

Emily is a Texas ex-pat and proud Longhorn living in Washington, DC, where she remains connected to the Lone Star State through her work on BOR and her enthusiasm for breakfast tacos. She works on affordable housing policy, and writes about health care, poverty and other social justice issues.

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