Get Covered! Your Guide to the Health Insurance Marketplace

Mixed with all the holiday marketing, you are probably being constantly reminded that you need to have health insurance. If you have health insurance through your employer, if you are enrolled in Medicare, or if you have veterans health insurance, no need to worry – you are covered and meet the Affordable Care Act’s legal requirements.

If you purchase health insurance on your own or if you are eligible for Medicaid coverage, you have some work to do. Here are some tips to help you provide coverage and security for yourself and your family and to meet your legal requirement. Remember: If you are purchasing health insurance through the health insurance marketplaces, some states have their own marketplaces; the marketplace for other states (most states, actually) is

Important Dates

  • If you enroll by December 23, 2013, and pay your initial premium, your coverage can begin January 1, 2014.
  • First month premiums for plans purchased on marketplaces must be paid by January 10, 2014. Some insurance companies are extending the payment deadline further into January.
  • Open enrollment on the marketplaces ends March 31, 2014.
  • To avoid the penalty for not having health insurance you must enroll by March 31, 2014.

Window shopping at
The issues involving enrollment through the website have been well documented. However, by all accounts recent fixes have made the website work much better. We suggest you do your research before going on the website. The fixes have made that easier. Here are some “window shopping” steps to make your health insurance purchasing experience easier.

  1. When you go to, there is now an option to See Plans Before I Apply. There will be a few questions, and then you will be shown available plans in your area. For example, for my family in Burt County, Nebraska (the Center for Rural Affairs location), there were 28 plans available. This will include a monthly premium amount.
  2. Potential shoppers can now get an estimate of their premium assistance tax credit by providing their family size and income at the same “See Plans Before I Apply” section. There will be a button called “Check if I can get lower costs.” Your estimated tax credit will appear in the available plans details. This will give you an idea of the actual costs of available plans.
  3. The #1 step above also tells you about the plan (“Details” in the plan listings) that gives you information about items like deductibles and out-of-pocket costs and a provider directory.

Doing all these steps will provide you solid information on what health plans are available in your area, how much they cost, how much assistance you can expect, and how the plans meet the needs of you and your family.

Getting Help
Buying insurance can be a complicated undertaking. The home page of provides a Find Local Help link here. It will give listings of navigators and others who can help you through the process and answer your questions.

If you have questions explore (or the marketplace site in your state), contact any of the Application Assisters in your area, or contact us.