SOUTHWEST FLORIDA — Time is ticking to get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.
The Special Enrollment Period for the Affordable Care Act Marketplace ends Sunday after a three-month extension.
The next enrollment period is for 2022, so this is your last chance to get insurance for this year through the Affordable Care Act.
With COVID-19 hospitalizations rising, Rick Bennett, a Florida Blue manager, said it’s more important than ever to get insurance.
“With COVID, I think people have learned that you can't assume that you're always going to be healthy,” he said.
COVID-19 cannot be predicted, so insurance companies like Florida Blue are covering the cost of COVID hospitalization for their customers.
Bennett said Florida Blue understand the pandemic was unplanned.
“It definitely took, you know, Americans and the world but, especially Americans, it took us all off our game. It was an unexpected expense, so we made a commitment, because we're trying to build healthy communities and people, we want to make sure that every single Floridian is healthy,” he said.
He said the average COVID-19 hospital cost would be around $73,000. Bennett said without insurance, you are responsible for that cost.
“If you think about $73,000, that's a large chunk for most people. That's more than the average family makes in a year,” he said. “You can say that sure I'll risk it but risking it means that if you get it, then you are going to be probably either bankrupt or going to be figuring out some really hard decisions to make sure that you are not bankrupt.”
Medical bills are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy.
Being insured has additional benefits like preventative care and screens at no out-of-pocket cost—also, reduced cost of emergency visits, prescription drugs and ambulance care.
The American Rescue Plan also switched up some of the qualifications. Florida Blue reported around 318,000 Floridan’s didn’t qualify previously for financial help.
For example, if you can receive unemployment benefits in 2021, you are eligible for the zero-monthly plan. It isn’t just for people unemployed currently. Bennett said that is commonly mistaken.
“There's no longer that income cap on who is eligible. It's basically now it can't be more than 8.5% of your income,” he said.
He urges people to see if they are qualified on the Florida Blue website.
Bennett said the process of signing up could be confusing. He said Florida Blue is extending hours to walk folks through the process. Florida Blue Centers will open from 12 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sunday. They have a facility in Estero to get one-on-one help from an agent.
Below is a list of resources you can use:
- Call 1-800-FLA-BLUE
- Visit www.healthcare.gov
- Stop by the Florida Blue Retail Center at 8041 Plaza Del Lago Dr.