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Affordable health insurance is here, but act now!

Short term medical might be your answer, but a recent regulation means you must buy it soon to make coverage last through 2017

For 3 million in the coverage gap and nearly 13 million priced out of ACA-compliant coverage, short-term health insurance could be a much-needed bridge.

For 3 million in the coverage gap and nearly 13 million priced out of ACA-compliant coverage, short-term health insurance could be a much-needed bridge.

With so many reasons to be encouraged about the coverage gains – and the improvement in the quality of health coverage – under the Affordable Care Act, there are also reasons why that coverage might not work for everyone right now.

One obvious reason: higher individual-market health insurance rates in 2017 that are causing headaches for millions of consumers. In response, many are seeking relief – and finding it – in short-term coverage that isn’t ACA-compliant, but that will still provide a level of protection throughout 2017.

Is short-term health insurance right for you? If you’re not sure, this quick overview from health insurance expert Louise Norris will help you weigh the pros and cons.

If you do decide that short-term coverage would meet your needs, you should know that it’s important to act quickly – before the end of March – if you want coverage for the rest of 2017. Federal regulations now limit the duration of short-term policies to 90 days – unless you’ve enrolled prior to April 1, 2017.  (Some insurers will require you to purchase a plan by March 30, 2017.)

Ready to explore your options? You can start exploring coverage through the quote tool at the top of this page. (And if you find a plan, you could be insured as early as tomorrow.)

What’s happening with the ACA – and will it affect your coverage?

Trump loses first legislative test.Though Republicans have been rushing toward passage of the American Health Care Act — legislation written to repeal or change spending-related provisions of the Affordable Care Act – their efforts hit a major roadblock this week as a planned vote in the House was cancelled first on Thursday and then again on Friday.

Had the House bill passed and then made it through the Senate and been signed into law, it would have rolled back Medicaid expansion, cut federal funding for Medicaid, and eliminated premium tax credits. Under the bill, cost-sharing subsidies would have been eliminated, as would the penalties associated with the individual and employer mandates. The Congressional Budget Office projected that the AHCA would leave 24 million Americans uninsured.

What happens next?

President Donald Trump told Republicans that they needed to pass the bill this week or he would allow the Affordable Care Act to fail on its own merits. Earlier, his spokesman claimed that there was no “Plan B” – or alternative to the bill.

But is the pulled vote an indication that Republicans will abandon their attempt to legislatively dismantle the ACA? In reality, it’s very unlikely that this is the end of the effort. It’s doubtful that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) would give up on his plans for healthcare reform, or that all of the Republican lawmakers who campaigned on promises to repeal the ACA will move on without a fight.

Expect to see House Republicans regroup in the very near future and start working on “Plan B.”

Special enrollment periods: because ‘life happens’

Open enrollment for 2017 ended on January 31 – and for most people, that’s not great news, namely because your opportunity to purchase ACA-compliant health insurance on the individual market will be very limited until the start of the next enrollment period.

When the ACA was written, lawmakers understood the importance of limiting enrollment to specific times of the year. But they also understood that some life-changing events warrant the ability to enroll in a new individual health insurance plan. If you’re not certain whether you have a qualifying life event, you’re in luck. Louise Norris – our expert on all things open enrollment – has written a Guide to Special Enrollment that explains the most common qualifying events.

The guide also explains who doesn’t need a special enrollment period.

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 health insurance premium 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 healthinsurance.org

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 the number at the top of this page to get free assistance.