HARLINGEN — Open enrollment for health insurance this year is going to be a lot shorter.
The window in which you can enroll in the Affordable Care Act will be half the time that it usually is.
In previous years, open enrollment lasted until mid-January.
Now, with half the time to enroll, consumers will have to work quickly to make sure they are covered in the upcoming year.
Norbeto Gonzalez, program director at MHP Salud, formerly known as Migrant Health Promotion, said the short six-week period will make for a busy season.
Gonzalez said his organization is working on the logistics to meet the demands and needs of their consumers.
“Our main concern is getting our consumers enrolled during the open enrollment,” Gonzalez said.
Currently, Healthcare.gov allows people to window shop insurance policies to find the right one before the open enrollment date.
“I do advise for consumers to go online and create a profile so they can evaluate their options,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said making the deadline will help those enrolled have control over their plan.
Karen Martinez is a district manager and licensed agent with the Freedom Insurance Company and advises people to enroll as soon as possible.
Those who miss the deadline will be allowed to enroll during the special enrollment period if they qualify for reasons such as getting married, having a baby or losing health coverage.
Martinez said insurers are now asking for proof in order to apply for special enrollment.
“Special enrollment is only 30 days, so it’s important to start quickly and don’t do it by mail,” Martinez said.
Martinez said items that are sent through mail can get lost, which could make the customer miss the deadline.
“Do everything electronically or fax it,” Martinez said. “It’s quicker and easier to track.”
Martinez said one of the biggest mistakes first-timers make when applying for health insurance is not accurately calculating their income.
Martinez said their cost for insurance will be off, which might seem great during the year, but come tax season consumers will be asked to pay the appropriate amount.
“Quotes are based off household size and income and if it’s done wrong, it could impact their tax return,” Martinez said.
Any changes to income or household size throughout the year must be reported.
Martinez advises anyone enrolling for the first time to meet with a specialist and provide pay stubs and tax returns to help the process go quickly.
“Enrolling is really time sensitive this year,” Martinez said.
Although each year the enrollment period has decreased, there has been a dramatic drop of uninsured residents in Cameron County — from 2014 to 2016.
In 2014, at 43.6 percent, Cameron County’s uninsured was almost double the state’s average of uninsured.
According to the Census Bureau, in 2016 that number dropped in Cameron County to 28.6 percent, while the state was at 18.6 percent.
To enroll visit healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 for more information.