By Sen. Angus S. King Jr.
As winter approaches, Maine people are busy preparing for low temperatures, high snowfalls and a holiday season that seems to grow a little longer each year. With so much to do (and shorter days making it even harder to get it all done), I know how easy it is for something important to slip through the cracks — which is why I’m writing today to remind you that the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) open enrollment period is open for only six weeks, starting on Nov. 1. You can sign up by visiting www.healthcare.gov, or by calling (800) 318-2596.
If you’ve watched the news lately, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of debate on the future of our health care system, but what’s been ignored all too often in this conversation is the fact that the ACA, while flawed, is working. The law has helped millions of Americans access life-saving coverage, and premiums have actually decreased since last year, meaning insurance may be less expensive than you think. It makes you wonder how much better the law could be functioning for all of us if it weren’t being constantly chipped away by the administration and threatened in the courts.
There are good options out there if you shop around, but it’s vital that you start your search right now. The current administration has slashed the open enrollment period from 12 weeks to just six weeks. This critical period is when all eligible individuals can purchase health insurance for 2020; if you miss the window, you won’t be able to enroll without qualifying for a special enrollment period (i.e. if you’re getting married, moving, welcoming a child).
Another reason why you need to start your shopping today: insurance is complicated! It’s always been hard to find the right plan that will work with your medications, your doctors and your budget, and it’s even more challenging now that the administration allows for “junk” insurance plans. These plans are exactly what they sound like — they offer coverage in name only, and aren’t required to cover any pre-existing conditions. In short: these plans won’t be there when you need them. By starting now, you can identify your personal insurance needs, weed out the junk plans, and find one that best covers you and your family.
(By the way, a small aside: many folks seem to think that members of Congress get some sort of special health care. That’s just not true — I get my insurance through the ACA, and know firsthand about the challenges of picking the right plan.)
Even though this administration has drastically cut federal funding for programs that are designed to help consumers make sense of different health care plans, there are still resources available for Maine people searching for help. For example: Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care (CAHC), a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to helping Maine people get quality, affordable health care.
CAHC can help you learn more about your options by connecting you with an “assister.” You can call their free confidential helpline at (800) 965-7476 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. (Leave a message if the line is busy — they’ll get back to you!) You can also visit them online at any time at www.mainecahc.com.
In the event of an unexpected illness or injury, insurance can save you from medical or financial ruin. With such a short window to secure critical coverage, there’s no time to put this off. Dec. 15 will be here before you know it. This holiday season, give yourself and loved ones the gift of peace of mind, and find the best health care plan that keeps you healthy both physically and financially.
Independent Sen. Angus S. King Jr., the 72nd governor of Maine, has served as the state’s junior senator in the U.S. Senate since 2013.