For Americans who need health insurance, now is the time to sign up. The end of the 2022 open enrollment period for Obamacare marketplaces in most states is Saturday.
So far, a record 14.2 million Americans have enrolled in marketplace coverage for this year, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. New subsidies created by Congress as part of last year’s stimulus bill have temporarily lowered premiums for nearly everyone who buys their own insurance. And the Biden administration has made substantial investments in advertisements for the program and in professionals who can help people select an appropriate plan.
Insurance subsidies are calculated on a sliding scale according to income. For Americans close to the poverty line, generous insurance is available for no premium at all. For the first time, Americans with incomes more than four times the poverty line — around $100,000 for a family of four — can qualify for subsidies if their insurance premium would cost more than 8.5 percent of their income. Those changes mean even people who have been unable to find affordable options in past years may benefit from reviewing their options this time.
To select a plan, a good first stop is healthcare.gov, which serves the 33 state marketplaces managed by the federal government. If you live in the District of Columbia or one of the 17 states that run their own insurance markets, you will be referred to a state site.
If you need human help navigating the site, the website has a directory of assistants and brokers who can walk you through the process for free.
The enrollment deadline marks the end of an unusual period for the marketplaces, in which people were free to sign up for most of the year. Typically, the government limits enrollment to a few weeks a year in order to encourage people to maintain insurance all the time, and not just sign up when they get sick. But government officials and insurance companies abandoned that approach during the pandemic and established a long “special enrollment period,” which is now over.
There are some situations in which people can obtain insurance outside the normal enrollment window. People who experience a major life change, like losing a job or getting a divorce, can enroll during the 60 days after that change. Americans who qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program can sign up at any time of the year.