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It seems like every day there is a new bill proposal, executive order, or proposed budget cut affecting the Affordable Care Act, leaving the public wondering what they need to do this open enrollment period. Here are five things you should know about open enrollment to protect your family and yourself this year.

ACA is still the Law of the Land

While there have been many Affordable Care Act repeal bills none have gained enough votes to pass and be made into law. The ACA is currently still the law of the land across the United States. All eligible individuals are advised to enroll in a health plan through Covered CA.

Health Insurance and Your Taxes

Our current administration has hinted that it may not enforce the tax penalty mandate for those who choose not to sign up for health insurance. However, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is still upholding the ACA, and has released a statement in October, declaring that it will reject tax returns filed electronically that fail to disclose health insurance information. Those who file their tax return on paper and do not release their health insurance information will be subject to have their refund delayed and will have their processing suspended. Those without health insurance may have to pay the penalty fee if they do not qualify for a hardship exemption. Long story short, the IRS still requires you to provide health insurance information when taxes are due.

Open Enrollment Period Begins Nov 1st and Ends January 31st in California.

Advertisement for open enrollment period has been slashed by 90%, leaving many Americans in the dark about open enrollment dates. Federal open enrollment begins November 1st and ends December 15th. Some states, like California, have expanded their open enrollment period until January 31st . You can apply to medical any time of the year, however, to apply for any other health insurance plan, the deadline is January 31st . Don’t wait, apply today!

CSRs and the Surcharge Applied to Silver Level Tier Health Plans

Currently the administration has decided to not reimburse cost-sharing-reductions to insurers which allowed them to offer reduced cost health plans for those making up to 200% of the federal poverty line. No CSRs results in higher costs for consumers. Many states, including California, have prepared for this by shielding as many Californians as possible from incurring the cost. California placed a surcharge on silver tiered plans, knowing that about 4/5 silver tiered policyholders will qualify to receive financial assistance. As the price for their plan increases, so will the financial assistance they receive, resulting in health plan rates similar to what they paid last year. The remaining 1/5 who earn over 400% of the federal poverty line are not eligible for financial assistance and will incur the full surcharge. Those customers are encouraged to consider different metal tiers as they may be cheaper. Some will even find that gold or platinum plans are cheaper than the silver plans because the only plan being hit by the surcharge is the silver tiered plan.

Free Help Enrolling is Available

If you only remember one thing from this article, remember this: Certified Enrollment Counselors are trained every year through Covered CA and work at health centers to offer FREE enrollment assistance. CECs know how to mitigate the marketplace exchange and answer frequently asked questions. So please, don’t feel like you must go at it alone!

Blanca Gutierrez, Project Coordinator, Community Clinic Consortium and a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health