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Consumers who have not yet signed up for health insurance through the government’s Health Insurance Marketplace still have time — but two important deadlines are fast approaching.

A plan must be selected and the premium paid by Jan. 15 to obtain coverage by Feb. 1; for coverage effective March 1, the plan and premium must be finalized by Jan. 31.

Siloam Springs Regional Hospital continues to offer free application assistance to help individuals evaluate insurance options on the Marketplace and complete their application forms. However, the hospital’s certified assistors are encouraging those needing help to reserve appointments early, as schedules typically book quickly this month. Call(479) 215-3137 to make an appointment.

Increased penalties for 2016 are driving many newcomers to the Marketplace, as most individuals must choose between purchasing insurance and paying a fine. Fines are $695 per adult, $347.50 per child, and up to $2,085 per family or 2.5 percent of family income — whichever is higher. The fines will be assessed when 2016 federal tax returns are filed.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), the great majority of consumers purchasing plans on the Marketplace are qualifying for financial assistance; this reduces their premium cost — which is the monthly fee charged for coverage. Most are expected to pay less than $75 per month.

All health plans on the Marketplace must offer a comprehensive set of benefits, and coverage cannot be denied for individuals with a pre-existing health condition. Some of the mandatory health benefits include free preventive care and wellness services, doctor visits, prescription drugs, hospital and emergency department care, lab services and pediatric services.

 

 

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