It is no wonder that there’s a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a Obamacare) as Congress and the president go back and forth on repealing and replacing the law. People are understandably confused about whether they may still enroll for 2018 coverage or how they go about doing it.

Open enrollment for 2018 coverage started on Nov. 1 and ends on Dec. 15 – a much shorter period than prior years. After that, consumers can enroll or change plans only if they qualify for a special enrollment period, like losing other coverage or having a baby.

Enrollment outreach services also have been significantly reduced this year, with a marketing budget cut of 90 percent and funding for navigators - who help people sign up for coverage – cut by 41 percent.

Premiums also will be more in 2018, with increases of between 22.6 and 7.9 percent.

It is important to know that if you do nothing, you can be automatically re-enrolled in your current plan for 2018, which may have a significant premium increase. Some plans that were offered last year will not be available next year and you could be automatically redirected into a new plan that does not suit your needs. For example, your doctors may not participate in the new plan or your drugs may not be covered.

Currently, more than 45,000 North Dakotans get their health coverage through the Marketplace. We fear that these changes will mean the loss of coverage for them and other North Dakotans in 2018 if people do not understand their options and act promptly.

If you have questions about the Marketplace, go to https://www.healthcare.gov/get-coverage to compare plans in North Dakota, find in-person help, apply for financial assistance, and enroll.

Jerry Jurena, Bismarck

Jerry Jurena is president of the North Dakota Hospital Association.

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