Less than one week until the deadline: Enroll by December 15, 2019, to start the new year with coverage!

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RALEIGH – December 15, the first major deadline of this Affordable Care Act open enrollment period, is rapidly approaching, and uninsured North Carolinians who want to enroll in quality, affordable health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace must enroll by that date if they want their new coverage to begin on New Year’s Day. For consumers who need to renew their coverage, December 15 is the deadline to choose a plan so they don’t experience any gap in coverage as the new year begins.

The North Carolina Navigator Consortium and Enroll America encourage all uninsured North Carolinians to take​ advantage of the quality plans and financial assistance available through the Affordable Care Act – or potentially face a fine for going without health insurance in 2016.

Here are five things every North Carolinian needs to know about getting covered by December 15:

1. The first open enrollment deadline is December 15.

The open enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace lasts three months, from November 1 until January 31, 2016. During this time, North Carolinians are able to enter the Marketplace and select a plan that fits their needs and budget. North Carolinians who currently have coverage through the Marketplace or an individual plan outside the Marketplace will also have an opportunity to shop the new options available and find the best plan for them. Enrolling by December 15 will guarantee that their coverage will start on New Year’s Day, providing them with the peace of mind that comes with protecting themselves and their families.

2. 92% of North Carolinians got financial help to make their plan more affordable!

For many North Carolinians, affordability is a real concern in their health care decision-making. In the past, high premium costs have forced many to go without health insurance simply because they couldn’t afford it.

The good news is that financial help is available to help you pay for your plan. In fact, as of June 2015, nearly 460,000 were enrolled in coverage through the Marketplace, and 92% of them received financial assistance to make their monthly payments affordable. To find out how much financial assistance you qualify for through the Affordable Care Act, you can check out the Get Covered Calculator tool at GetCoveredAmerica.org/Calculator.

3. In-person help is available to help you understand your options and enroll in a plan.

The enrollment process can be confusing for many, especially if you’ve gone a long time without coverage. Luckily, there is free, in-person enrollment help available in your area. These are unbiased experts in your community who are certified to sit down with you, explain your options, and help you make the best coverage decision for you and your family. They can also help you renew your plan if you’re already insured through the Affordable Care Act and want to keep your coverage or choose a new plan. You can find someone near you and make an appointment by calling 1-855-733-3711 or using the Get Covered Connector tool at GetCoveredAmerica.org/Connector.

4. Plans and prices change every year, and now you can compare your options easily.

Everybody’s needs and financial situations are different, and the wide variety of plans can be intimidating. That’s why Get Covered America has introduced the Get Covered Plan Explorer, a free web-based plan comparison tool that can provide you with up-to-date and easy to understand information on your health coverage options.

By answering a few simple questions about your household, the Plan Explorer will generate a list of available plans that meet your needs – including the plans that cover your doctors. The tool also takes into account the monthly premium and estimated out-of-pocket costs, so you’ll have a good idea of what you’ll pay throughout the year. Using side-by-side comparisons, you can be confident that you’re choosing the plan that best fits your needs and your annual budget. Explore your options now at GetCoveredAmerica.org/Explorer.

5. You may face a fine come tax time if you remain uninsured.

This enrollment period is an opportunity to not only gain access to quality affordable healthcare for you and your family, but to also avoid paying a fine when you file your taxes. If you do not enroll in a plan by the final deadline of January 31, 2016, you could face a fine of $695 or 2.5% of your yearly income, whichever is greater. The fine will increase each year, making it more and more costly to delay complying with the law – on top of having to pay out-of-pocket for costly health services during the year. Enrolling in coverage could not only save your family $695 or more, but also provides covers free preventative care, prescription drug coverage, and other essentials for a healthy life.

You can learn more about the Affordable Care Act, your coverage options, and how you can help your friends and family get covered at GetCoveredAmerica.org.

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The NC Navigator Consortium is a group of 14 health care, social service, and legal aid organizations that helps North Carolina consumers enroll in affordable health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. The consortium is led by Legal Aid of North Carolina, a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free civil legal aid to low-income North Carolinians. Members of the consortium are Access EastCapital Care CollaborativeCape Fear HealthNetCare RingCouncil on Aging of Buncombe CountyCumberland HealthNetHealthCare AccessHealthNet GastonLegal Services of Southern PiedmontMDCPartnership for Community CarePisgah Legal Services and United Way of Greater Greensboro.

Enroll America is the nation’s leading health care enrollment coalition. An independent nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, Enroll America works with more than 6,700 partners in all 50 states to create cutting-edge tools, analyze data, inform policy, and share best practices in service of its mission: maximizing the number of Americans who enroll in and retain health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Media Contact: Sean Driscoll, Director of Public Relations, 919-856-2132