47 ABC - Open enrollment kicked off Wednesday and that means residents can sign up for 2018 health insurance coverage.
Public Healthcare is back for another year, despite reservations on Capitol Hill, but this time around residents on Delmarva have half the time to enroll.
"It's very important for consumers to know first of all that there is a very short time to enroll from November 1st to December 15th. The other things consumers should know is first of all is that the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land, it's still here it still exists," Priscilla Chatman, President of Chatman Delaware Navigator Entity.
That leaves only 45 days to enroll which is why here on the shore local so-called 'navigators' will be around to help and educate those who are uninsured and those who are re-enrolling for healthcare coverage.
"Our navigators can assist somebody in starting an application on the consumer portal and we have access to the worker portal, where they can go in and kind of help somebody enroll and do the entire application process online," explains Mandy Baum, Program Coordinator for Lower Shore Health Insurance Assistance.
Higher premiums are coming but we're told it won't affect consumers like many may think thanks to tax subsidies.
"Although the basic premium may have increased most consumers are not paying that. 85 percent of consumers will get this tax subsidy and with that tax subsidy the consumer pays a really small amount out of pocket." says Chatman.
Both Marylanders and Delawareans will be able to choose one of seven healthcare plans.
Although one major difference in Delaware is Aetna is no longer a provider, leaving only one provider in the Marketplace.
"That is quite concerning that there is just one insurance company in the marketplace in Delaware now which is Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. Within Highmark there are several plans," explains Chatman.
Maryland still has both Carefirst and Kaiser Permanente.
Also, plans won't renew automatically like they previously have so you'll have to log on and confirm your coverage for 2018.
And if you're thinking about holding off on healthcare, you might want to think twice before doing so because you will be facing a penalty.
We're told the penalty can be quite substantial. Now there are reasons that some folks can be exempt, but the IRS says they are still penalizing people who do not have minimum coverage.
We're told that penalty is $695 dollars for an individual or 2.5 percent of the gross household income, whichever is higher.
"If a consumer does not have health insurance minimum health insurance benefits or qualify for an exemption they will have to pay a penalty. A penalty for themselves and their family members and that amount increases the more money a person makes as well as the family size," says Chatman.
Again consumers can view plan options and insurers online at healthcare.gov
For Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia that deadline is December 15th.
Delawareans who want to learn more information go to www.ChooseHealthDE.com
For Marylanders, go to MarylandHealthConnection.gov.
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