Arizona health care signup deadlines loom

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX (AP) -- Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell will be in Arizona on Saturday as she works to encourage residents to sign up for individual health insurance or renew and re-enroll for coverage they bought last year.

Burwell will visit enrollment centers at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix and Los Ranchitos Elementary School in Tucson. She'll meet with local elected officials and residents at the enrollment events.

Time is short for those who want a plan in place by Jan. 1. The deadline to sign up for a plan that begins by New Year's Day is Monday. Open enrollment is closed for everyone Feb. 15.

Key facts, changes and issues during the second open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act:

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ALREADY INSURED?

If you signed up for health insurance for 2014 during the first open enrollment period, that doesn't mean you should ignore this enrollment period.

A large number of the 120,000 Arizonans who bought insurance this year get subsidies based on their income, so it is important that they update their information at www.healthcare.gov, to update their subsidy amount.

Also, because so many plans are changing next year and premiums have changed, now's the time to shop around.

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DEADLINES, PENALTIES

Monday is the last day to pick a new plan that would take effect by Jan. 1. Open enrollment ends Feb. 15, locking most people out of the market for another year.

Penalties for those without insurance in 2015 go to $325 per person or 2 percent of income, whichever is higher. In 2014, it is 1 percent or $95. The penalty must be paid when you file your taxes.

Those in the country illegally don't qualify to buy a plan through the health care exchanges and don't qualify for Medicaid.

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MORE CHOICES

Three new insurance companies are entering the individual market in Arizona on Jan. 1, including the nation's largest health insurer, United Healthcare.

That brings to 13 the number of insurers in the market. Premiums for a mid-range plan in Phoenix, called a silver-level plan, dropped 10 percent this year, making Arizona one of the least expensive states for individual health insurance.

Prices in rural areas may be higher, but a 40-year-old nonsmoker can get a plan in Phoenix for $170 a month - before a subsidy that people earning less than 400 percent of the poverty line can receive. There are seven network pricing zones in the state.

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HELP AVAILABLE

With more than 100 plans in Phoenix alone, picking an insurance plan can be incredibly complicated.

Besides premium price, people need to consider maximum out-of-pocket costs, whether their doctor or hospital is a preferred provider, and what kind of prescription coverage is included. Two large community groups have received grants to provide "navigator" services, essentially education and handholding to help people figure out how to apply and what plan to choose.

And it's easier to find help than in the last enrollment period. A group called Cover Arizona has upgraded its website, www.coveraz.org, to link navigators with those who need help. If you don't have access to a computer, dial 211 and they'll do it for you.

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