The Affordable Care Act established a Health Insurance Marketplace in October 2013. Now in its fourth year, the Health Insurance Marketplace is designed to make buying health coverage easier and more affordable. The Marketplace allows individuals and small businesses to compare health care plans, get answers to questions, find out if they are eligible for tax credits for private insurance or health programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and enroll in a health plan that meets their needs. To date an estimated 20 million Americans have found health coverage through the Marketplace, Medicaid expansion, young adults remaining on their parents plan, and other provisions of the ACA.
Open enrollment begins November 1, 2016 and goes through January 31, 2017 for coverage starting in 2017. If you do not enroll by January 31, you will not be able to enroll in a health insurance plan unless you meet the criteria for the Special Enrollment Period. If you want coverage that starts on January 1, 2017, you need to sign up by December 15, 2016.
In the Marketplace information about prices and benefits are written in simple language. You can get a clear picture of what premiums you'll pay and what benefits and protections you'll get before you enroll. Compare plans based on what's important to you, and choose the combination of price and coverage that fits your needs and budget.
Insurance plans in the Marketplace are offered by private companies and cover the same core set of benefits called essential health benefits. No plan can turn you away or charge you more because you have an illness or medical condition. They must cover treatments for these conditions. Plans can't charge women more than men for the same plan. Additionally, Marketplace plans are required to cover preventive care benefits.
You can apply for Marketplace coverage in four ways: online, by mail, by telephone, or in-person at an enrollment center near you. Telephone help and online chat are be available around the clock to help you complete your application. Please note that large numbers of online visitors and phone calls may create wait times or slow down websites.
Applying for coverage through the Marketplace is as easy as 1, 2, 3! Here are three ways to get started:
1. Visit www.healthcare.gov/ or www.CuidadoDeSalud.gov in Spanish. Select a plan and apply online or by sending your application in the mail.
2. Call 1-800-318-2596, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (TTY: 1-855-889-4325).
3. Click here to connect with your local Marketplace and find an enrollment center near you.
And here are nine ways to learn more before applying:
1. Sign up for email or text updates.
2. Follow @HealthCareGov or @CuidadoDeSalud on Twitter.
3. Join the conversation on HealthCare.gov on Facebook or CuidadoDeSalud.gov on Facebook.
4. Watch and share videos about the Marketplace on HealthCare.gov on YouTube.
5. Find tips for consumers and small businesses, top things to know about the Marketplace, frequently asked questions, and more on the Health Insurance Blog. Make comments to continue the discussion.
6. How does the Affordable Care Act benefit women? Check out this video!
7. WomenHeart has compiled a list of helpful fact sheets about the ACA here.
8. Check out this handy tool from the National Health Council that helps you understand out-of-pocket spending: Estimate My Costs.
9. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' From Coverage to Care Initiative provides useful information in English and Spanish to get your started.