December is here and Advent has arrived — a season which Christians joyfully and expectantly welcome as we await the celebration of Christ’s birth. This year, for many Americans, the month of December is significant for an additional reason — the approach of affordable health insurance coverage. Now, according to a notice from HHS, individuals have until December 23 to apply for coverage that will begin on January 1. This represents an eight-day extension to the original deadline of December 15.
The months leading up to this point have been a roller coaster of challenges. With a broken federal website, the shutdown of the federal government, and surprise policy cancellations, getting to this moment of being able to say “coverage is coming” is both a joy and a relief for many who have for so long gone without. For uninsured individuals and families who enroll in qualified health plans by December 23, the first day of January will bring new consumer protections and more comprehensive coverage.
Due to some intense problem-solving, we can also glean hope that the federal website, healthcare.gov, is functioning much better than it did on October 1. We hear more stories of people successfully making it through the enrollment process without being bogged down by innumerable glitches in the system. Much work is still left to be done, but Jeff Zients, the man chosen to lead the repair of healthcare.gov, reported on December 1 that “The system is now able to handle its intended volume of consumer visits, and it has redundancy built in to avoid the type of instability that we saw in October.”
So, bottom-line — coverage is coming, and you have until December 23 to apply for coverage that will begin on January 1and must pay for your first premium on or before December 31. Currently, the final deadline for open enrollment before penalties begin is March 31, 2014. If you have questions about the application process or are looking for enrollment assistance, visit the consumer section of our website to find applicable resources.