Open enrollment ends Dec. 15 for coverage starting in January | CraigDailyPress.com

Open enrollment ends Dec. 15 for coverage starting in January

A couple receiving help to complete insurance paperwork.

CRAIG — Not only does health insurance help pay for health care, having it could lead to better care.

"Research shows that people with health insurance are more likely to have a regular doctor and to get care when they need it," according to the Agency for Health Care and Quality Research. "It protects you and your family financially in the event of an unexpected serious illness or injury that could be very expensive. In addition, you are more likely to get routine and preventive care if you have health insurance."

Health insurance can be costly in Colorado but may still be less expensive than paying out-of-pocket for an accident or injury.

The independent Colorado Health Institute's "2017 Colorado Health Access Survey: The New Normal," found that "Colorado has maintained its historic level of health coverage, despite political uncertainty and rising insurance premiums."

When CHI Senior Data Analyst Rebecca Silvernale gave birth to a son, Liam, who was born 12 weeks early, he was placed in neonatal intensive care for three months before he went home with his parents.

The ordeal, Silvernale said, would have bankrupted an uninsured family, or even a family with insurance in the days before the Affordable Care Act banned lifetime payout limits on health insurance policies.

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Benefits of the Affordable Care Act are not always so clear, and Congress has been working to fix some of the perceived problems with the act. That has given rise to confusion about this year's effort to get people insured.

"There has been some confusion about health care coverage this year. I want everyone to know that the financial help to buy health insurance is still available for next year," said Connect for Health Colorado CEO Kevin Patterson.

Connect for Health Colorado — the state’s health insurance marketplace — is predicting that people using the exchange will pay less in 2018 than in 2017.

"They will see the premium that they pay (full premium, minus the Premium Tax Credit amount) go down by 20 percent on average in 2018. Coloradans can also reduce their costs by shopping and comparing plans," according to Connect for Health Colorado website.

Open enrollment in Colorado — the yearly period when people can enroll in a health insurance plan — runs Nov. 1 through Jan. 15, but Dec. 15 is the last date to enroll for coverage to begin on Jan. 1.

"You must complete enrollment by Dec. 15 to have coverage Jan. 1," Patterson said, also noting that, in the first two weeks of Open Enrollment, sign-ups were about 33 percent higher than last year.

Outside of the Open Enrollment Period, it's possible to enroll in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, any time of year or during Special Enrollment Periods triggered by certain life events, such as getting married, having a baby or losing other health coverage.

Job-based plans may have different Open Enrollment Periods, so it's also important to check with employers for deadlines for those plans.

"I urge everybody buying their own health insurance to take a minute on our site, connectforhealthco.com, to check to see if they qualify and then review their options and complete their enrollment before the last-minute rush," Patterson said.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Learn more

Key dates and deadlines for individuals and families buying private coverage:

  • Open Enrollment: Nov. 1, 2017, through Jan. 12, 2018.

You cannot purchase health insurance after this period unless you have a qualifying life-change event, such as marriage, divorce, having a child, losing your employer-sponsored insurance, or move to Colorado.

  • Last day to enroll for coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2018, is Dec. 15.
  • Last day to enroll for 2018 coverage (absent a life change event) is Jan. 12, 2018.

Connect for Health Colorado is a public, non-profit entity established by the Colorado General Assembly in 2011 to create a health insurance Marketplace. It is the only place to apply for financial assistance in the form of tax credits to help lower the monthly cost of premiums. Customers can shop online; get help by phone or online chat from Customer Service Center representatives, and access free, in-person assistance from a statewide network of certified Brokers, community-based Health Coverage Guides or Application Counselors.

For more information visit: connectforhealthco.com