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Getting covered 101: How to get health insurance during Open Enrollment

Not sure you need health insurance, or want insurance but not sure how to get it? We've got you covered.

by Adriana Scott

Still waiting to get health insurance? Getting covered may seem complicated, but for most of us affordable, quality insurance is just a few steps away. If you haven’t signed up yet for 2017 coverage, or if you’ve never signed up period, don’t worry—we’re here to get you caught up to speed on the basics!

Open Enrollment is the period between November 1, 2016, and January 31, 2017, when you can enroll in health insurance through Even if you consider yourself totally healthy, everyone can benefit from having health insurance. Getting preventive care can keep you healthier over time, and unforeseen accidents and illnesses can happen to any of us. Without coverage, medical bills can add up quickly! Plus, if you don’t have coverage, you may have to pay a penalty of $695 or 2.5% of your income (whichever is greater).

Coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, a.k.a. ObamaCare) provides lots of protections and benefits to make sure you’re treated fairly in the Health Insurance Marketplace and get real value out of your health plan. Think you can’t afford insurance? Thanks to premium tax credits, which are based on your income, 7 in 10 consumers on were able to buy a plan for $75 a month or less in 2016—so depending on your income, you may be pleasantly surprised.

So what’s in it for me?

You can stay on your parent or guardian’s plan until you’re 26. If your parent or guardian has health coverage that covers dependents, you can stay on or re-join their plan. Under most plans, you can stay enrolled even if you don’t live with them, or if you get married or have a child of your own.

You can get check-ups for $0. Preventive care tests and screenings are 100% covered without copays or deductibles. That means services provided in an annual physical exam like high blood pressure tests and immunization vaccines, as well as sexually transmitted infection (STI) screenings, flu shots, and more can be a regular part of your self-care regimen without worrying about the cost. Practicing good preventive care can help you prepare for the future and catch any unexpected changes in your health early.

Say goodbye to discrimination. Before the ACA and its provisions against discrimination, insurers could raise costs on or even prevent certain people from getting coverage—like women, people with disabilities, and many other vulnerable populations. For example, before the ACA, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people were outright refused care for their sexual orientation. People were also denied care or charged more because of “pre-existing conditions,” or chronic illnesses (like asthma or diabetes) that existed before they tried to enroll. Today, you can’t be turned away or forced to pay higher rates based on gender, sexuality, or chronic medical conditions.

Women’s care with no copays. Birth control is considered preventive care, so once you’re covered you can get contraception for zero out-of-pocket costs! You can also keep tabs on your health by having a well-woman visit and mammogram free of charge. Bonus: If you decide you’re ready for a baby, you can also receive breastfeeding support and counseling with no out-of-pocket costs.

It may be more affordable than you think. If you’re starting out in your career or in school, your budget may be tight and it may seem difficult to afford health care. Fortunately, people who get insurance through the Marketplace and earn less than about $47,000 a year (for a family of of one—or $97,000 for a family of four), may be eligible for coverage at a discounted price. Young adults are more likely to benefit from these discounts compared to older uninsured adults, so find out if the discount applies to you at

I’m sold! How do I sign up?

If you’ve heard enough and are ready to sign up, go to To enroll you’ll need:

  • Proof of the number of members in your household (proof of addresses, birth dates, and social security numbers should do the trick)
  • Contact information and social security numbers of household members looking to enroll in coverage
  • Your tax household’s annual salary (for more details on how to estimate this, visit’s expected income page)
  • Policy numbers for any current health plan

You can also use this handy checklist from to make sure you have every document you need before enrolling.

Can things change under the new administration?

If you’ve heard in the news that President Trump and Congress are talking about repealing the ACA, you may be wondering if your health care will change. The short answer? It’s possible, but it’s unlikely that 2017 coverage will be affected. For now, the Marketplace remains unchanged and open for business. Getting covered now will safeguard you from medical debt if something unexpected happens, and you’ll be able to take advantage of benefits like free preventive care.

Log on to, see what discounts you’re eligible for, shop and compare prices, and choose a plan that fits your budget and your needs. Your health and your wallet will thank you.

This article was written by Adriana Scott, Engagement & Storybank Coordinator for Young Invincibles, a Millennial research and advocacy organization focused on expanding economic opportunity for young adults. To learn more visit and follow them on Twitter @YoungInvincible.

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