Uninsured warned Marketplace deadline is Sunday

DOVER — The deadline to get 2016 medical coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace is Sunday and health officials are urging those who haven’t yet signed up to choose a plan as soon as possible.

“We have learned from previous years that the last week of enrollment is always the busiest,” said Lolita Lopez, president and CEO of Westside Family Healthcare. “There are only a few days left and we encourage everyone not to wait until the last minute.”

The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services reported that by mid-January 26,334 Delawareans had signed up for health insurance through the Marketplace.

One of those enrollees was 26-year-old Kaitlyn Powers of Glasgow. She shared her experience signing up for coverage at an event held Monday at Westside Family Healthcare in Dover.

“I came to a pivotal time in my life when it came to getting health care,” she said. “I turned 26 in October, which meant I was now in charge of getting my own insurance.”

So the logical step, she said, was to go online to healthcare.gov to compare plans that covered what she needed.

“I found it overwhelming when I went on healthcare.gov because there were many different plans and there were also terms I was unfamiliar with and I needed to know how they would effect me,” she said.

She contacted a marketplace navigator at Westside Family Healthcare who was able to assist her through the process of choosing the plan that was right for her and met her specific needs like prescription drug coverage.

At an event held Monday at Westside Family Healthcare in Dover, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., discussed the Affordable Care Act and reminded Delawareans the deadline to enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace is Jan. 31. (Delaware State News/Ashton Brown)

At an event held Monday at Westside Family Healthcare in Dover, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., discussed the Affordable Care Act and reminded Delawareans the deadline to enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace is Jan. 31. (Delaware State News/Ashton Brown)

“I had the education to choose a cost-effective plan that worked with my doctors and kept my co-pays reasonable,” she said. “It’s important to be healthy and well-connected to resources.”

More than 80 percent of Delawareans enrolled in Marketplace plans qualify for tax credits that average $260 per month.

“It’s a pretty good deal,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. “People can get decent health care coverage, most people will be eligible for the tax credit which can drop the price of coverage pretty significantly.”

Ms. Powers is one those who qualify for the tax credit; her plan costs about $110 per month.

For individuals who choose to go without insurance, the decision comes with a tax penalty.

The penalty included on the 2016 tax form is 2.5 percent of the household income or $695 per person ($347.50 per child younger than 18), whichever is higher.

The penalties increase yearly and those without coverage who are submitting their 2015 taxes now will receive a penalty of 2 percent of household income or $325 per adult ($162.50 per child younger than 18), whichever was higher.

Dover, along with Georgetown, greater New Castle, Milford, Smyrna, Seaford, south Wilmington and West Wilmington, received extra marketing and support from the Department of Health and Social Services this year because those areas had the lowest enrollment rates in the state for 2015 — and likely some of the highest penalty rates.

Marketplace navigators are available throughout the state to help in choosing plans or to guide enrollees through the process.

For more information, visit ChooseHealthDE.com before Sunday.

“We remind everyone that Jan. 31 is a firm deadline and no one should count on an extension or extra time,” Secretary Landgraf said.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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