Obamacare deadline is Saturday, and grants boost signups

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For Americans who need health insurance, now is the time to sign up. The end of the 2022 open enrollment period for Obamacare markets in most states is Saturday.

So far, a record 14.2 million Americans have signed up for market coverage for this year, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. New grants created by Congress as part of last year’s stimulus bill have temporarily reduced premiums for almost everybody who buys his own insurance. And the Biden administration has made substantial investments in ads for the program and in professionals who can help people choose an appropriate plan.

Insurance subsidies are calculated on a sliding scale based on income. For Americans close to the poverty line, generous insurance is available without any premium. For the first time, Americans with incomes above four times the poverty level – about $100,000 for a family of four – are eligible for subsidies if their insurance premium costs more than 8.5% of their income. These changes mean that even people who haven’t been able to find affordable options in recent years could benefit from considering their options this time around.

To select a plan, a good first stop is www.healthcare.gov, which serves the 33 state markets operated by the federal government. If you live in the District of Columbia or one of the 17 states that operate their own insurance markets, you will be directed to a state site.

If you need human assistance to navigate the site, the website has a phone book assistants and brokers who can guide you through the process for free.

The registration deadline marks the end of an unusual period for marketplaces, when people were free to register for most of the year. Typically, the government limits enrollment to a few weeks a year to encourage people to maintain insurance all the time, not just enroll when they get sick. But government officials and insurance companies abandoned that approach during the pandemic and established a long “special registration period“, which is now complete.

There are some situations where people can get insurance outside of the normal enrollment window. People who experience a major life change, such as job loss or divorce, can register for 60 days after this change. Americans eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program can enroll any time of the year.

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