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OP-ED: Avoid the Frenzy—Enroll in Health Coverage Early

December 15 deadline to be insured in January




Many people find the frenzied pace of November and December a bit overwhelming. School concerts, parent-teacher conferences, holiday parties and events, shopping, work deadlines, inclement weather, family visits, travel, additional church and community activities, and other events can leave individuals and families stretched thin and exhausted. If you pick up a winter cold or the flu during this period, it’s even worse.


January isn’t much better, as winter has settled in, and everyone is back to work and school after the holidays. Inboxes are full, task lists are long, and the holiday glow has worn off. Additionally, you must enroll by December 15 for coverage in January.


There is one thing you can get a jump on, though. You can create an account now and enroll in health coverage through HealthCare.gov beginning November 1, 2015. Enrollment for Medicaid/Denali KidCare and for members of federally recognized tribes runs year round.


There are many excellent reasons to enroll in health coverage for 2016. While this won’t have the delivery of a former late night host’s Top Ten lists, I think you’ll still find it interesting.

  1. For 2015 coverage in Alaska, almost 89% of consumers received tax credits averaging $534 per person; 82% could get insurance for $100 or less and 57% chose insurance for $100 or less.
  2. Most consumers liked their health coverage according to surveys by Kaiser Family Foundation and by the Commonwealth Fund.
  3. Consumers received peace of mind according to a survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.
  4. All Qualified Health Plans cover essential health benefits, including many free preventive health services for adults, women, and children.
  5. Enrollment help is available locally (visit https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/ for local assistance information) and by phone at 1-800-318-2596 in a variety of languages.
  6. Your children can stay on your plan until they turn 26.
  7. Women can’t be charged more for health insurance simply for being female.
  8. No one can be charged more or be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition.
  9. As of the end of June, 9.9 million people were enrolled in their Marketplace plans.
  10. For 2016 you can face an increased tax penalty if you fail to obtain coverage.


Open Enrollment only lasts three months, from November 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016. Two of those months are arguably the busiest of the year for many people. Get an early start! Enroll now, relax, and enjoy the benefits of health coverage and the peace of mind it brings all through 2016!


About Susan Johnson

Susan Johnson was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama as Regional Director of Region 10 serving Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.  As HHS Regional Director, she serves as Secretary Burwell’s primary representative and liaison to key constituencies in the Region.  In this role, Susan works with federal, state, local and tribal officials on a wide range of health and social service issues.

For twelve years prior to this she was Regional Health Administrator and Director of the King County Health Action Plan (KCHAP), a voluntary partnership of over forty organizations convened by Public Health - Seattle & King County to implement innovative collaborative policy development and pilot projects that focus on system change and improvement of worsening health trends affecting vulnerable populations within King County, Washington.

Before that, Susan was a member of the Washington State Health Care Policy Board, appointed by Governor Lowry in 1995, and prior to that was the state Governmental Relations Director for the Service Employees’ International Union, then, the largest health-care union in the AFL-CIO. 

Susan served on the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and the Shoreline Community College Board of Trustees.  She graduated from Middlebury College, Vermont and when not working on health policy, Susan skis, plays tennis and golf, enjoys fly fishing, writes and does water colors.


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