With the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the rules and timeframes for purchasing individual and small group health insurance changed. Health insurance can now only be purchased during the open enrollment period and the current open enrollment period ends February 15, 2015.

Applying for Medical Insurance

Many Americans already have health insurance the ACA considers adequate. If you receive health insurance through an employer, Medicare, or Medicaid, you have appropriate ACA coverage and don’t need to purchase additional insurance.

If you are uninsured, however, you will want to apply for medical insurance as soon as possible. If you are uninsured after February 15, 2015, you will have to pay a penalty unless you have an exemption from the ACA coverage mandate. After February 15, 2015, you will not be able to purchase health insurance until the next open enrollment period in the fall, unless you qualify for a special enrollment period.

Some states have state-run health insurance sites, but most states use Healthcare.gov to manage the ACA insurance Marketplace. To apply for medical insurance, you will need information about your household size and estimated 2015 income. There are multiple ways to apply for ACA coverage, but you must complete the application before February 15, 2015.

Officials anticipate a surge in enrollment as the deadline nears, which will tax online enrollment systems and create lines. Consumers in line to purchase coverage at the deadline will be allowed to finish the process after the deadline passes, but can avoid this hassle by enrolling early.

Getting Help with ACA Insurance

Many Americans have questions and concerns as they apply for ACA coverage, and there are many resources available to help. Local in-person assistance for learning how to apply for a Marketplace health care plan is available and you can also call 1-800-318-2596.

The Healthcare.gov website answers many questions related to ObamaCare and is available at any time. Comprehensive information can be found on the Healthcare.gov Get Answers page. Articles range from answering the question “Can I get ObamaCare?” through choosing an ACA insurance plan and using your coverage benefits.

The most important aspect of applying for medical insurance is to not wait until the last minute. You want to make sure you have adequate time to compare policies, ask questions, and ensure that your key medical providers are covered under the plan you choose. If you wait, you could end up buying a plan quickly and miss out on benefits you need in 2015.