9 days and counting to get coverage effective Jan. 1

There are eight weeks remaining in ACA's open enrollment, but just over a week to enroll if you need coverage that starts New Year's Day.

There are more than eight weeks remaining in the Affordable Care Act’s annual open enrollment period, but we think it’s worth reminding our readers that if you need coverage that starts on January 1, 2017, you shouldn’t be focused on the January 31 cut-off.

That’s right. Your coverage effective date mostly depends on the date that you enroll … so if you want your 2017 coverage to be effective on January 1, the deadline to enroll is actually December 15, 2016 – a little more than a week away.

In Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington state, you can enroll as late as December 23 and still have coverage effective January 1. But in every other state (regardless of whether you’re enrolling on or off-exchange), you’ll need to enroll by December 15 in order to have coverage effective January 1.

Read more about Obamacare enrollment deadlines.

No good reason to delay shopping

We know that many who’ve gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act have been concerned lately about President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to dismantle the law. (Trump’s nomination of Rep. Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services is further proof that Trump is serious.)

But does that threat mean that you should change your plans to buy coverage now, during the annual open enrollment period? Definitely not, and here’s why:

  1. Even if a move to repeal and replace Obamacare starts in 2017, it’s unlikely that repeal would have an effective date in 2017.
  2. That means subsidies – including premium subsidies and cost-sharing subsidies – are still available now. Even if legislation to repeal subsidies is passed in 2017, it’s unlikely any changes would take place before 2019.

Read more about what might happen to your coverage – and when it might happen – in The ‘Trump effect’ on your Obamacare coverage. But for now, there’s no reason to believe something drastic will happen to coverage for 2017 that you buy now.

Reasons to get and maintain health coverage

As time passes, most Americans are getting the message that it’s getting easier to research and buy coverage – whether it’s through the exchanges (where subsidies are available) or off-exchange.

Thanks to improved online tools, it’s easier than ever to compare health plans – from benefits to premiums and out-of-pocket expenses – while the federal government has mandated improved transparency regarding networks and formulary information.

Of course, by purchasing coverage, you can also avoid or minimize an Obamacare penalty established through the ACA’s individual mandate. Those penalties increased again in 2016 for people who are uninsured and not exempt from the requirement to have health insurance. For 2017 and beyond, the flat-rate penalty will be adjusted annually for inflation, although the percentage of income penalty will remain at 2.5 percent going forward.

But most important of all, it simply makes sense to cover yourself and your family with an ACA-compliant plan that covers the essential health benefits and offers a full range of consumer protections – including protection from staggering financial burdens that result from medical care.

About us: your guide to individual and family health insurance

At healthinsurance.org, we don’t sell insurance, but we do partner with qualified call centers staffed with agents who are both licensed in your state and exchange-certified. These partnerships also allow us to deliver health insurance quotes quickly and easily.

Since 1994, this site has been a guide for consumers seeking straightforward explanations about the workings of individual health insurance – also known as medical insurance – and help finding affordable coverage.

The topic of insurance can be confusing, but we’re here with more information than ever: educational articles, expert health policy analysisfrequently asked questions about reform, a health insurance glossary, and guides to the healthcare marketplaces and other insurance resources in each state.

Don’t hesitate to let us know if you hit a snag in the process – or if you’re stumped by a question about health coverage. Of course, we’d also love to hear about your success in getting coverage and quality healthcare.

But today, with the complexities of premium subsidies, cost-sharing subsidies, penalties – and now qualifying events and special enrollment periods – it’s a smart move to talk to a professional who can help minimize your cost and maximize your benefits, and save you research time. Call 1-877-809-0501 to get free assistance.

Open Enrollment 2017

What: The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) open enrollment period for 2017 coverage.
When: November 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017
Where: Right here at healthinsurance.org
How: Get free health insurance quotes online or call toll free 1-844-337-4826

Special dates to take note of:

  • November 1, 2016: First day you can enroll in, re-enroll, or change a 2017 insurance plan. Your coverage can start as soon as January 1, 2017.
  • December 15, 2016: The last day to enroll in or change plans for coverage to start January 1, 2017. If you have not completed your enrollment by this date, you may need a short term health insurance plan to bridge the gap to your 2017 coverage.
  • January 1, 2017: 2017 coverage starts for those who enrolled or changed plans by the December 15 deadline.
  • January 31, 2017: The last day to enroll in or change a 2017 health plan. After this date, you need to qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.