Open enrollment for customers of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, begins Wednesday.
A lot has changed that people will need to know. Here are some questions and answers about the enrollment period:
How long do I have to enroll?
Until Dec. 15. That’s a big change from previous years. You do not have until after school’s out, and you don’t have until after the holidays. You have from Nov. 1 until Dec. 15 at 11:59 p.m.
I heard Obamacare got undone.
No. There have been changes to the process, but Obamacare is still in place and so is the national mandate that every individual have health insurance. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the past few months of rhetoric in Washington has caused confusion: Nearly 40 percent of the uninsured think the individual mandate has been repealed or that it’s no longer in effect. But they’re wrong. It’s still in effect.
I heard subsidies went away.
Not for plan holders; they still get subsidies. The fundamental idea that Obamacare would help lower-income people get affordable insurance is still in effect. The funding did change, and prices will be much higher for people outside the assistance bracket. But those who make less than about $50,000 a year will still get lower-cost, subsidized insurance.
What if the website doesn’t work?
Try again or call. The website is scheduled to be down for maintenance early on Wednesday, the first day, but then go up again. It’s also scheduled to be down most Sundays until noon, so you just need to try after noon.
What’s the website?
Go to Healthcare.gov.
Where can I find help in enrolling?
There is a lot of information available from people set up to assist. There’s the government website’s assistance staff, and there are nonprofit “navigators” who are trained to help for free, as well as traditional for-profit insurance agents.
What’s a navigator?
The health care law established navigators. They’ve been trained to help you through the system, to make the right choice whether it’s an Obamacare plan or something else.
How do I get help directly from the enrollment website?
The enrollment website, healthcare.gov, has a “Get Help” section with lots of facts and questions answered, as well as a help phone number, 1-800-318-2596.
Is there other help I can get?
Yes. Go to “Find Local Help” on the enrollment website, at localhelp.healthcare.gov, and put in your ZIP code and click “continue.” That should bring up names of insurance agents or others who are licensed to enroll people. If you put in your ZIP code, click “continue” but nothing happens, try it again but punch in a ZIP code and when the website and brings up an autofill suggestion of that ZIP code and its city name, click on that. The “continue” button should change color and then you can click on it and get your list.
What if I’m already enrolled in Obamacare?
The federal agency running enrollment says you will be automatically re-enrolled, but you are still encouraged to go back in and update your information and select a plan for 2018 anyway. If you don’t do that, you might lose important tax-credit benefits or get enrolled in a different plan.