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HEITKAMP: Deadline looming on open enrollment

By Staff | Dec 1, 2017

As we approach the holidays and a new year, it’s important to count our blessings and focus on the health and well-being of ourselves and those we care about. And perhaps the single most important thing you can do for your health and financial security is to make sure you have adequate health insurance.

Health care open enrollment is going on right now and North Dakotans can sign up for or change their health care plans to make sure they’re getting a plan that works best for them and their families.

But this year, you have much less time to research and choose a plan through healthcare.gov, known as the health insurance marketplace, than in past years. Open enrollment ends on December 15 a month and a half earlier than last year so time is running out to choose a plan for those who don’t get coverage through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or Tricare. That’s why it’s so important that you act quickly to secure coverage and remind your friends and family to do the same.

The administration drastically cut the length of the open enrollment period this year, and also slashed federal funding for in-person assistance known as navigators who help you select a plan and sign up for coverage. We’re seeing the direct impacts in North Dakota. Minot State University, for example, saw its federal funds to help North Dakotans find care slashed by 96 percent. And Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board doesn’t have enough funds to help North Dakotans sign up for coverage as it has done in previous years.

Since 2013, the uninsured rate in North Dakota has been reduced from 11 percent to 8 percent, in large part due to the work of organizations like these that helped families sign up for coverage.

Because of the shorter enrollment period and reduced resources, I created a new webpage to help folks explore their health care options and choose the best plan for their individual needs. Please visit it to find resources at www.heitkamp.senate.gov.

North Dakotans can shop for plans, determine financial assistance eligibility, sign up for coverage, and receive application assistance or appeal a decision by visiting www.healthcare.gov or calling 1-800-318-2596. There are five ways to apply for coverage: online, by phone, with in-person help, through an agent, or by mail.

Despite the administration’s misguided decision to cut open enrollment period and support for assistance like North Dakota’s navigators, enrollment across the country has actually risen compared to previous years. That’s because families know how important it is to have health insurance whether you have a preexisting condition or are in perfect health. You never know when you’ll need medical care, and no one should be saddled with a debilitating bill from the emergency room simply because they missed the open enrollment period and don’t have health care.

I have long said that the health reform law isn’t perfect. But there are many pieces in it that are helpful, and for years I’ve been pushing to make it work better for North Dakota families and small businesses. For example, I’m leading an effort to delay the Health Insurance Tax to prevent burdensome premium increases. And I recently helped put forward a bipartisan plan to immediately make health insurance more affordable and accessible for North Dakota families.

Every individual and family should be able to get access to affordable, quality health care, and no one should have to go bankrupt to pay for health care for a child with disabilities, a sick family member, or just an emergency that you never thought could happen. I encourage every North Dakotan who lacks health insurance or needs to make changes to their coverage to do so before the December 15 deadline. There isn’t time to waste as protecting your health is too important.

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