LANCASTER, Pa., Dec. 9, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller today reminded consumers that the open enrollment period for purchasing 2016 health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act is still on-going, but deadlines are approaching.
"Open enrollment runs through January 31, but in order to have coverage effective January 1, you must select a plan by December 15," Commissioner Miller said. "I want to stress the importance of this deadline. If you don't select a plan by the 15th, your coverage will not begin during the first month of 2016.
Speaking at Project Access Lancaster County in Lancaster, Commissioner Miller encouraged consumers to shop around and consider the options available before settling on a plan. Consumers can shop for plans available through the federal marketplace on www.HealthCare.gov.
Open enrollment for 2016 health insurance coverage began on November 1 and runs through January 31. In order to avoid a lapse in current coverage and have a plan effective January 1, the federal government requires that consumers must purchase a plan by December 15.
"Having a gap in coverage, no matter how short it may be, could turn into a very costly situation for you and your family," said Commissioner Miller. "Illness and injury can come on unexpectedly. You want to be prepared so you don't have to worry about financial concerns during a health crisis."
Commissioner Miller reminded consumers that there are many options for coverage available in each geographical rating area, so consumers who want to explore a new plan or are unhappy with changes to their plan still have a number of options.
"Open enrollment is your time to explore the options available to you. Due to federal requirements, unless you encounter a particular life event, this may be the only time you're able to select coverage for the year," said Commissioner Miller. "Because of this, I strongly recommend exploring all options available to ensure that you are getting the best plan for your needs and your money."
She also reminded consumers that under the Affordable Care Act, everyone must have health insurance or they may face a tax penalty from the Internal Revenue Service. The tax penalty for not having health insurance increases in 2016 to $695 or 2.5% of a consumer's annual income, whichever is higher. Subsidies are available if you purchase coverage through the federal marketplace at www.HealthCare.gov and can off-set the costs consumers face on a monthly basis through their premiums and in some cases help cover some of their out-of-pocket costs. In 2015, a family of four with an income of approximately $95,000 qualified for a subsidy, so Commissioner Miller strongly encouraged all consumers to explore this option.
"I urge all consumers to not only consider all the plans available in your area but also opportunities for subsidies from the federal government," said Commissioner Miller. "You may qualify for credits that you didn't realize were available."
Commissioner Miller was joined by Patrick Keenan, consumer engagement manager for Pennsylvania Health Access Network, Lisa Riffanacht, executive director of Project Access Lancaster County, and Ellen Schellenberger, a navigator with the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association.
The Pennsylvania Insurance Department has a variety of resources available to help consumers understand the shopping process. Visit www.insurance.pa.gov/Coverage/Pages/Health.aspx for our printable Shopper's Guide and a video on how to shop for health insurance.
If you have questions on the shopping process, you may contact the department's Consumer Services Bureau at 1-877-881-6388 or online at www.insurance.pa.gov.
MEDIA CONTACT: Ron Ruman, 717-787-3289
SOURCE Pennsylvania Insurance Department