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Time running out to sign up for health insurance

Years ago, I worked as a nurse in North Dakota hospitals.  It was not uncommon to meet  farm families or young adults who were unable to get health insurance and were worried about their ability to get and pay for needed health care. This problem is serious because research clearly shows that going without insurance coverage can cost lives. Recently, I talked with a farmer who had been uninsured but, like 21,000 North Dakotans last year, he checked out options on the Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act and enrolled in a plan within his means. A few months after he enrolled, he was diagnosed with a type of cancer that, when caught early, is very treatable. The appointments and costly treatments to save his life were largely paid for by his recently acquired insurance. Coverage is important. For example, the cost of four days in a hospital can climb to $30,000.    

Also important, all Marketplace insurance plans must guarantee coverage for benefits like hospitalizations and prescription drugs.  And, while historically there was no guarantee of insurance for people with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, today there is.  This protection is especially important for the estimated 275,000 North Dakotans with pre-existing conditions.   

Applying for Marketplace insurance doesn’t require slogging through red tape. It can take about 10 minutes to submit an application and last year, more than eight out of 10  people who enrolled, qualified for financial help. Getcoverednorthdakota. org is the website to review options and enroll. Free information is available by calling 1-800-318-2596 or by stopping by a community health center. However, time is running out. This year there is a much shorter timeframe to get coverage and much less advertising to guide people to it.  Dec. 15 is the final day to enroll.

While there is still work to do to make health care affordable for more people, the Marketplace offers a way for thousands of North Dakotans to get affordable, quality coverage.  Whether it’s at a community meeting, over coffee,  or through a church announcement, now is the time to ensure that people know they still have a few days to insure their health. Without coverage, people take the chance that illnesses or accidents aren’t going to happen.  In the process, they put one of their most important personal assets, their health, at risk.