Avoid the Frenzy—Enroll in Health Coverage Early

Coverage begins November 1 by going to www.healthcare.gov.

OPINION -- Many people find the frenzied pace of November and December a bit overwhelming. School concerts, parent-teacher conferences, holiday parties and events, shopping, work deadlines, inclement weather, family visits, travel, additional church and community activities, and other events can leave individuals and families stretched thin and exhausted. If you pick up a winter cold or the flu during this period, it’s even worse.

January isn’t much better, as winter has settled in, and everyone is back to work and school after the holidays. Inboxes are full, task lists are long, and the holiday glow has worn off. Additionally, you must enroll by December 15 for coverage in January.

There is one thing you can get a jump on, though. You can create an account now and enroll in health coverage through HealthCare.gov beginning November 1, 2015. Enrollment for Medicaid/CHIP and for members of federally recognized tribes runs year round.

There are many excellent reasons to enroll in health coverage for 2016. While this won’t have the delivery of a former late night host’s Top Ten lists, I think you’ll still find it interesting.

1. For 2015 coverage in Oregon, 75% of consumers received tax credits averaging $196 per person; 44% chose insurance for $100 or less.

2. Most consumers liked their health coverage according to surveys by Kaiser Family Foundation and by the Commonwealth Fund.

3. Consumers received peace of mind according to a survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

4. All Qualified Health Plans cover essential health benefits, including many free preventive health services for adults, women, and children.

5. Enrollment help is available locally (visit http://www.oregonhealthcare.gov/get-help.html for local assistance information) and by phone at 1-800-318-2596 in a variety of languages.

6. Your children can stay on your plan until they turn 26.

7. Women can’t be charged more for health insurance simply for being female.

8. No one can be charged more or be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition.

9. As of the end of June, 9.9 million people were enrolled in their Marketplace plans.

10. For 2016 you can face an increased tax penalty if you fail to obtain coverage.

Open Enrollment only lasts three months, from November 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016. Two of those months are arguably the busiest of the year for many people. Get an early start! Enroll now, relax, and enjoy the benefits of health coverage and the peace of mind it brings all through 2016!

Susan Johnson is the regional director, US Department of Health and Human Services, Region 10.

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