This year, all citizens are required to have health insurance, and it’s not too late to sign up. Dec. 15 is the first major deadline for the Affordable Care Act open enrollment period, and there are a handful of local organizations in place to help people get covered and stay covered.
My No. 1 reason for having health insurance is to protect my health. I think of it like auto insurance, a requirement in most states, designed to cover the risk of financial liability or the loss of a motor vehicle I may face if my vehicle is involved in a collision that results in property or physical damages. With this comparison, think of the financial liability as the cost of an individual’s health care, the vehicle as your body and the collision perhaps with an illness or injury on the ski slope – all resulting in physical health damages.
Access to health care is predicated on access to health insurance coverage. Without coverage, injury and illness have bankrupted families, contributed to irreversible health damage and even loss of life.
Because of the ACA, health insurance companies selling plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace, Connect for Health in Colorado, can no longer deny coverage or charge you more because of pre-existing health conditions, and they cannot charge women and men different premiums based on their gender. Each health plan generally will offer comprehensive coverage, including a core set of essential health benefits such as doctor visits, preventive care, maternity care, hospitalization, prescription drugs and more.
In order to have coverage through Connect for Health Colorado starting on Jan. 1, Coloradans must enroll by Dec. 15. Those who enroll during the second half of the month (Dec. 16-31) will have coverage that takes effect Feb. 1, 2016. Open Enrollment ends on Jan. 31, 2016, though if you have a qualifying life event (change in family size, move to another state, marriage or loss of health coverage), you can sign up during a Special Enrollment Period after the deadline.
Those who already have coverage should revisit the Colorado Marketplace to make sure their household information is updated for the new year. Because there are new plans, and new prices available, everyone should check out the options available and find the plan that fits their health care needs and budget. Financial assistance is also available to lower the cost of coverage – in fact, 54 percent of Coloradans who enrolled during the last open enrollment period are receiving financial help.
Axis Health System is a Medical Coverage Collaborative member, a partnership of six organizations in La Plata and Archuleta counties working together with the mission of increasing health coverage and access to health care for residents. Coordinated by the Community Health Action Coalition, other members include Archuleta County Department of Human Services, Centura Health, La Plata Family Centers Coalition and San Juan Basin Health. Free enrollment help is available from staff at Axis’ La Plata Integrated Healthcare clinic (call 335-2371), or any of the collaborative members.
Visit Connect for Health.com, axishealthsystem.org, or chaclaplata.org for more information.
Ellen Stein is director of development for Axis Health System, a not-for-profit health care organization making a meaningful difference in the health of Southwest Colorado residents by integrating all aspects of health care and treating the whole person. Reach her at 335-2257 or firstname.lastname@example.org.