Health

Today's the Last Day to Sign Up for Obamacare. Here's What You Need to Know.

Published On 01/31/2017 Published On 01/31/2017
obamacare
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

With all this talk of the new administration repealing and replacing Obamacare, many people are (rightfully) worried if they'll have health care coverage in the new year.

Luckily, there's still time to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act for 2017 that includes coverage for the rest of the year. But you need to get on it ASAP. 

If you still need health care, here's a quick guide on how to sign up. For more comprehensive info, be sure to check out HealthCare.gov.

When is the deadline for signing up for Obamacare?

The deadline is midnight Pacific Time on February 1 -- basically you want to have it done by 11:59pm on the night of January 31, though if you're on the East Coast, this means your deadline is Wednesday, February 1 at 3am Eastern Standard Time.

What if I don't meet the deadline?

There are some exceptions to the January 31 deadline, listed here in the special enrollment opportunities section. You have to apply to be eligible for a special enrollment period, which you can do through your HealthCare.gov account. Certain life events typically qualify you for special enrollment, like having or adopting a kid, getting married, losing health insurance, moving to another state, and income changes. 

How do I sign up for Obamacare?

Applying online: If this is your first time signing up for Obamacare, you'll need to create an account on HealthCare.gov. If you've previously had coverage, log into your account on HealthCare.gov to renew or change your plan. 

Applying over the phone: You can also apply over the phone by calling the Marketplace Call Center at: 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325). It is open 24 hours a day, so you can call into the wee hours if you need to.  

Applying in person: If you prefer to apply in person, you can find a location near you that can help you with your application. 

Applying via snail mail: Although this option will take the longest, obviously, it's possible to mail in an application. You can download an application form here

Do I need to sign up for Obamacare?

If you're an individual who doesn't have insurance coverage through your employer, doesn't qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, and can afford to pay it, you must sign up for Obamacare, or pay a fee.

That fee is 2.5% of your household income or $695 per adult ($347.50 per child), whichever is higher. You can also get more detailed information on how the fees work here. You may be able to avoid the fee if you qualify for an exemption, including if you can't afford it based on your income. 

Under Obamacare's employer mandate, employers who have more than 50 employees must provide health care coverage for at least 95% of their employees and dependents up to age 26, or pay a fee. 

What if I can't afford Obamacare? 

What you pay for health insurance depends on your income, but there are also credits and rebates that may help defray the costs. Eight out of 10 people who enroll in health insurance through HealthCare.gov receive financial assistance

Otherwise, you're looking at paying the fee mentioned above. 

How does a Trump presidency affect Obamacare?

The bottom line is: We're still not sure. The administration has promised to repeal and replace Obamacare (although replace with what is still up in the air), issuing an executive order on January 20 that "directs federal agencies to ease the 'regulatory burdens' of Obamacare."

The administration even halted federally sponsored ads that remind people to sign up for the ACA before the January 31 deadline -- most people wait until the last minute to sign up for insurance.

But the administration has also promised a transition period that will still provide coverage before a new program is put in place. Trump's senior advisor Kellyanne Conway even said that no one will lose health care coverage after Obamacare is repealed, alluding to a replacement plan in the works.

If you're not covered, your best bet is to still sign up for Obamacare for 2017 to ensure coverage through the year. 

Can insurance provided by work be affected?

Possibly. There are aspects of employer-issued Obamacare coverage that could be affected if the government decides to overhaul the ACA. Some of these include preventive services (such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and immunization vaccines), changing the annual cap on out-of-pocket payments, or delaying coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

While none of these changes are guaranteed to happen under the Trump administration, these factors could be on the table when the government discusses changes to the current Affordable Care Act. 

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Christina Stiehl is a Health and fitness staff writer for Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaStiehl.

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