Opinion

Reports of the Affordable Care Act ’s death have been greatly exaggerated

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With the holiday season approaching, I know that many of us are starting to shop for friends and family. But I want to highlight another type of shopping that could have a profound impact on your wellbeing: healthcare.

I know that the continued existence of Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans may be a surprise to many who have followed the healthcare saga in recent months, as many in Washington have pronounced the program dead. But what might be even more surprising is that there are some great deals available – in fact many in Maine are eligible for health insurance for less than $1 a month!

There are great prices out there if you shop around, but it’s vital that you start your search right now. The ACA 2018 open enrollment period has been shortened from 12 weeks to just six weeks, and now only runs through Dec. 15. This critical period is when all eligible individuals can purchase health insurance for 2018; if you miss the window you won’t be able to enroll without qualifying for a special enrollment period (i.e. if you’re getting married, moving, welcoming a child).

In addition to the shortened enrollment period, there is the added obstacle of site maintenance: the ACA’s website will be shut down for 12 hours per day on Sundays. With weekend hours unavailable to consumers and a shortened timeframe, there’s really no time to waste to make sure you can secure healthcare coverage. You can get started right now at www.healthcare.gov or by calling 1-800-318-2596 – but if you want some help understanding this complicated process there are many excellent resources to help you get covered.

First, there’s the Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to helping Maine people get quality, affordable healthcare. MCAHC can help you learn more about your options by connecting you with an ‘assister’ – you can call their free helpline at 1-800-965-7476 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or visit them online anytime at www.mainecahc.com.

There are also many regional assisters and navigators who can help guide you through your search. Reaching out to your local Community Action Programs will allow you to connect with these incredible assets – and when in doubt you can always call 2-1-1. Dialing 2-1-1 on your phone will connect you toll-free to the resources you need to understand the process of buying healthcare.

In the event of an unexpected illness or injury, insurance can save you from medical or financial ruin. With such a short window to secure critical coverage, there’s no time to put this off. Dec. 15 will be here before you know it – please start shopping now for a plan to keep you and your family healthy, both physically and financially.

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