The clock is ticking if you want coverage next year through the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace. Not only is it ticking, the clock is considerably shorter than prior years.

The Marketplace open enrollment period for coverage in 2018 begins today and will last through Dec. 15. That’s why it is so important to act quickly! Thankfully, Coastal Health & Wellness is here to help you meet the deadline.

Depending on your income, you may qualify for assistance paying your monthly health care premiums. Applicants may also qualify for exemptions from paying a penalty on tax returns. For example, someone with income under the income guidelines may be exempt from the tax penalty. However, people who do not enroll may face a tax penalty, which will increase every year. This may sound confusing, but we can help you figure out exactly what it means for you.

A great benefit of health care in the Marketplace is that all essential health benefits are covered. This includes maternity care, mammograms and other preventive care services. You cannot be denied health coverage for having a pre-existing condition such as diabetes, hypertension or cancer.

There is no open enrollment for individuals to apply for Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program, or the Texas Woman’s Health Program. Individuals may qualify for a special Marketplace enrollment period if they experience certain “qualifying life events” like marriage, relocation, income change or birth, for example, at any time during the year.

Galveston County residents with questions about the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace can call Coastal Health & Wellness at 409-978-4225 or visit the clinic at 9850-C Emmett F. Lowry Expressway in Texas City to speak with our certified application counselors.

Whether you currently do not have coverage, are underinsured or want to explore other plans that may better fit your needs, you do not want to let the short 45-day Marketplace open enrollment period pass you by. We’re here to help.

Mary McClure is the interim executive director of Coastal Health & Wellness.

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