Enroll in Healthcare Coverage Before Dec. 15 for Coverage Starting in January
If you don’t have health insurance, now is the time to sign up! We are in the midst of the open enrollment period for health plans under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or “Obamacare”), and December 15 is the deadline for obtaining coverage beginning January 1, 2017. As our government undergoes a major transition and the LGBTQ community is facing an increasingly hostile political climate, it is now more important than ever to sign up for a health insurance plan. We strongly urge you to do so.
Over the last month, there has been a lot of speculation about the fate of the ACA in the new Administration and Congress. We’ve all heard the rhetoric about repealing Obamacare, and it has left many people deeply concerned about the future of healthcare in the United States. It is clear that the new Administration and Congress intend to make major changes in healthcare and they may do away with the ACA altogether, but the timeframe for doing so and what will take its place is unknown. This has left people without insurance wondering whether they should enroll in healthcare during this year’s open enrollment period. The answer is clear: YES! If you do not currently have health insurance, we (and the current Administration) urge you to enroll while the ACA is still available.
Why? The bottom line is that it is easier to maintain health insurance coverage than it is to get new coverage. It makes sense to get coverage while you know that you can, while current legal protections remain in place prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people and preventing insurance companies from disqualifying you based on pre-existing medical conditions. In addition, high levels of enrollment in the ACA send the undeniable message that we need affordable and accessible healthcare. Since the election, the Department of Health and Human Services has maintained an aggressive campaign to enroll uninsured Americans in healthcare during the current open enrollment period, stating in the face of questions about the future of the ACA that enrollment is one of our best defenses against threats to repeal and replace the ACA. According to HHS, “It’s never been more important.”
Here are some important facts to remember:
LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination in health insurance coverage and health care.
The ACA prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ people in health insurance and in accessing health care, regardless of the state in which you live. On May 13, 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights issued a final rule with new nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people. Click here to read more the important protections provided by section 1557 of the ACA. Additional resources are also available from Out2Enroll covering discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, and Section 1557 specifically.
The ACA prohibits disqualification for illness or pre-existing conditions.
The ACA prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions such as cancer and HIV.
There is financial assistance available for those who cannot afford health insurance.
HHS tells us that about 85% of uninsured Americans are eligible for financial assistance under the ACA and its related rules and programs. The amount of financial help depends on your income. Click here to find out whether you qualify for financial assistance.
There is a penalty for not having health insurance coverage.
If you choose not to have health insurance coverage, you are required to pay a penalty of either 2.5% of your income or $695, whichever is greater. It may be cheaper to enroll in health insurance than to pay the penalty, especially since the majority of uninsured Americans qualify for financial assistance.
There is free in-person assistance available.
If you have questions or need help finding a health plan or with enrolling, assistance is available. To find free, local assistance based on your zip code click here to search Out2Enroll’s assister directory.
December 15, 2016 is the deadline to enroll for coverage beginning January 1, 2017.
January 31, 2017 is the last day to enroll for a plan for 2017.