Commentary

Time is running out to sign up for health care coverage

January 11, 2023 12:43 pm
health insurance marketplace

Katie Button of the Department of Consumer and Business Services (right) helps a consumer pick a health care plan on the federal online marketplace. (Department of Consumer and Business Services)

If you don’t have health insurance – or just want to explore your options – go to healthcare.gov on or before Jan. 15 to get covered with affordable health insurance. 

Having and keeping good quality affordable health care is personal for me. The Affordable Care Act saved my life. 

In 2017, I walked into a doctor’s office with a nagging cough and walked out with a stage four cancer diagnosis. My Obamacare policy paid for the six months of chemotherapy and a month of radiation treatments I needed to be in remission today. As a small business owner, before the ACA I was only eligible for junk insurance. If I still had that policy, I would be bankrupt or dead. 

Nobody knows what our future holds. From an accident to an unexpected diagnosis, we all deserve great health care when we need it. When we are sick or injured, our focus should be on healing, not living through sleepless nights worrying how to pay for it. 

In the past, Affordable Care Act health insurance policies weren’t always affordable for some middle class Americans like me and perhaps you too. At the time I was diagnosed, I did not qualify for financial help. 

But thanks to Congress and President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and now the Inflation Reduction Act, millions more can get assistance paying for their health insurance. Your premiums are capped at no more than 8.5% of your income, and you may be eligible for cost-sharing to bring down prices even more. Four out of five Americans can find coverage options for $10 a month or less

About 147,000 Oregonians with marketplace coverage are saving an average of about $990 annually. Expanding the Basic Health Program with a public option could provide affordable coverage to even more Oregonians in the future.

These health insurance savings are especially important for self-employed people, small business owners and employees, gig workers, temp workers and older people who have retired but are not yet eligible for Medicare.

To find out what discounts you are eligible for (and also whether you may be eligible for Medicaid or other programs in your state), go to healthcare.gov and plug in your estimated income for 2023. 

The deadline for open enrollment is Jan. 15. After that date, you would only be able to sign up if you qualified for a special enrollment period – perhaps you moved, or experienced a life change such as getting married or divorced, or lost health insurance through your employer. 

There is much more work to do, but we have come far on making health care more affordable in the past few years.

Even if you didn’t qualify for help before, the subsidies available through the Inflation Reduction Act mean that millions more Americans like you and I will get financial assistance. Take a few minutes to go through your options, and figure out what coverage possibilities you’re eligible for. 

If there is more you want to know about open enrollment and your options, check out my CareTalk show and podcast, where experts answer your health insurance questions and talk through larger issues in our health care system.

Time is running out to ensure you and your family have access to affordable health care this year. The life you save could be your own.

 

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Laura Packard
Laura Packard

Laura Packard is a small business owner and stage 4 cancer survivor, and founder of Health Care Voices. She hosts CareTalk, a weekly consumer call-in show on health care and health insurance issues in America on Mondays at 1:30 p.m. Follow @lpackard on Twitter or email her at [email protected]

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