Affordable Care Act enrollment ends Jan. 31

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COLUMBIA - If you don't have health insurance, you have until Jan. 31 to sign up for a plan under the Affordable Care Act.

Although a Republican-majority Congress and President Trump have vowed to repeal "Obamacare," many health and finance advisors are encouraging uninsured Americans to enroll in an ACA plan anyway. 

If an indiviudal enrolls in an ACA plan by the deadline, insurance coverage will begin March 1 and last through the remainder of 2017.

Securing an ACA insurance plan will also prevent uninsured individuals from incurring tax penalties.

Several community organizations provide resources to help individuals make informed insurance decisions.

Cover Missouri is a coalition of community partners and health organizations working to facilitate ACA enrollment throughout the state. 

Randy Rodgers, program manager for insurance counseling services at Primaris Foundation, a Cover Missouri coalition member, assists Missourians with the ACA enrollment process through one-on-one consulting appointments.   

"We have several agencies here in town that are able to assist individuals with questions about enrollment or with actual enrollment," Rodgers said. "The best way to reach any of us is to call the Cover Missouri call center, and a customer service representative will help them find an enrollment assistance agency in their area."

Individuals interested in making an appointment to discuss their coverage options can find local health insurance counseling services by visiting or calling the Cover Missouri call center at 1-800-466-3213.

Emily Young, program officer at Central Missouri Community Action in Columbia, said individuals can make appointments with certified application counselors at CMCA to navigate the Health Insurance Marketplace and select a plan. 

Young said CMCA accepts walk-in appointments, or individuals can schedule an appointment by emailing or calling 855-612-2259. 

Young said insurance counseling services at CMCA go beyond simply enrolling for an insurance plan. 

"We do health insurance literacy and education, too," Young said. "We're not just helping people through the process of comparing and picking plans that fit their medical needs and budget, but we're also talking to them about how to use their coverage and their preventative care options."

Individuals experiencing life changes, like the birth of a child, a job loss, a divorce or a marriage, can adjust coverage after the Jan. 31 deadline.  

Rodgers said individuals who had Coventry or UnitedHealthcare insurance in 2016 and are moving to a plan with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in 2017 are eligible for a special extended enrollment period and will have through the end of February to enroll.

At the end of 2016, about 11.5 million people had enrolled in health insurance plans under the ACA public exchange system.

To explore coverage options or sign up for an insurance plan on your own, visit Enrollment ends Jan. 31.