Affordable Care Act Deadline This Week: Are You Covered?
Republicans in Congress tried and failed to repeal Obamacare this year. While the future of the law is unclear, people who register before the deadline will have coverage for 2018.
The deadline to register for the Affordable Care Act for 2018 is Dec. 15.
Registration for the program works the same as it has in previous years. People can go to HealthCare.gov, where they can either register for insurance directly or find people to assist them in finding the right plan.
The three companies offering plans in New Jersey this year include Horizon Healthcare of New Jersey, Oscar Garden State Insurance Corporation, and AmeriHealth. Oscar was not offered in the marketplace last year.
With so many questions about health care in this country, here are answers to a few questions about how the process works:
How do I know if I'm eligible?
By logging on to Healthcare.gov, you can create a login and and password to start the application process. You can also get an estimate for how much insurance would cost based on where you live and your income on the website.
To be eligible to enroll in the marketplace you have to live in the United States, be a U.S. citizen or national, and can't be incarcerated.
What plans are offered?
There are 23 plans offered in the state. One of the biggest changes is Oscar's return to the marketplace after stepping away for a year. The plans are broken up into three tiers: gold, silver and bronze. The plans range in base cost from $251.63 for one of the AmeriHealth bronze plans to $795.87 for one of the Oxford silver plans.
The various tiers include different benefits. In most cases, the higher the premium the lower the deductible. Depending on a person's income and dependents, tax credits can be applied to the cost of the plans. There are extra savings available for silver plans.
What do I need before registering?
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services provides a Marketplace Application Checklist. Items on the checklist include having information about the size of your household, mailing addresses, Social Security numbers and tax forms. Information about current healthcare plans is also needed to register for the upcoming year.
How can I get help in New Jersey?
For people not comfortable signing up through the marketplace on their own, there is a network of assisters and agents or brokers that can help walk you through the registration process from beginning to end. These people can be found on the marketplace's website.
What if I don't sign up?
Under the current system, those who do not sign up through the marketplace are subject to a fine of $695 for each adult, and $347.50 for children who do not have health insurance.
What if Congress repeals the ACA?
According to Maria Menendez, of CoverNJ, people who sign up for one of the plans before the deadline will have coverage throughout 2018 as long as they pay their premiums. CoverNJ describes itself as "a collaborative project of Affordable Care Act outreach and enrollment groups across the state."
"We just tell them to just wait and not to jump to conclusions because of what they're hearing because we don't know what's going to happen," she said.
Menendez said one of the challenges facing New Jersey for this open enrollment period is that there are only three companies offering plans. She said other states have more options, but that the return of Oscar to the New Jersey market helped a little.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported 295,067 people in New Jersey signed up for federally offered health insurance. That was an increase from the 288,573 who registered the year before. The CMS said across the country there was a dip in enrollment from 12.7 million people in 2016 to 12.2 million last year.