Federal health officials said Wednesday those who are not provided with health insurance by their employers or are self-employed must enroll in a plan by Dec. 23 and pay their premium, to get coverage for Jan. 1.
"We have added a new feature to healthcare.gov that lets you 'window shop' for the types of coverage as well as discounts on premiums and other costs that might be available to you. Log on to healthcare.gov and click 'See Plans,'" officials at HHS said in a blog.
"You'll only need to answer a few simple questions to see detailed information about each Marketplace health insurance plan offered in your state -- before you apply. Using this new tool you can compare plans, understand covered benefits, review physician and hospital networks and more -- before you log in or complete an application."
For those who tried the Marketplace website Healthcare.gov -- especially in October or early November -- and your application seems stuck or you can't move forward, try starting the process again, officials suggested.
"First, log in to your account, select the application in progress and hit 'remove.' Then close and re-open your web browser. Log back into your Healthcare.gov account and start a new application. Having trouble? Call our Customer Call Center at 1-800-318-2596."
For those who have already filled out a paper application, call the Customer Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 to get your application ID number and find out if your eligibility determination has been made. You can use this information after you create an account on HealthCare.gov to review plans and enroll, officials said.
Or finish the process on the phone or with in-person assistance in a local community -- visit localhelp.healthcare.gov to find a trained assistor.
No matter if the application was submitted, people need to pay their first premium on or before Dec. 31 in order to have coverage by Jan. 1, 2014.
"Although you compare and choose a plan using the Health Insurance Marketplace, once you select a plan, you must pay your premium to the insurance company directly -- not to the Health Insurance Marketplace. If you select a plan on Healthcare.gov, you will see an orange message indicating you must make payment to be covered on Jan. 1, officials said.
"Insurers handle payment differently, so follow the instructions from the insurer you select about what forms of payment are accepted and the due date of your first premium -- which will be on or before Dec. 31, depending on the plan you choose."
Not sure if you've fully completed the process? Call the health insurance company, it can confirm you have paid your first month's premium and you are enrolled. They will also send you plan information and insurance card.
If you're having trouble, call the Customer Call Center at 1-800-318-2596, HHS officials said.