Key to good health? Hint: It's available right now


The key to good health is access to care, and one of the most important ways to ensure that access is through health insurance.

Right now -- through Dec. 15 -- is the only time for people without health insurance to shop for coverage for 2018 on the Health Insurance Marketplace, at healthcare.gov. It's also the only time for people who have insurance to update their information and check out other options.

And despite what you may have heard, help is available for many people to defray the costs of health insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace.

I get a knot in my stomach when I think about patients over the years who have shared their worries about paying for health care. Those who were uninsured, or even those without enough insurance, didn't always get the preventive care or follow-up care they needed to stay healthy.

Building healthier communities is such an important mission, we've joined a collaborative of diverse organizations to get the word out about open enrollment. The CoverNJ Coalition is made up of health care providers, insurers, faith groups, public libraries, YMCAs and others all working together to make sure people are aware that now is the time to sign up for insurance.

Another mission of CoverNJ is to dispel some of the confusion around the ACA Marketplace.

The Marketplace is indeed open for business, with plenty of options for New Jersey residents. For 2018, three insurance companies are selling plans: AmeriHealth, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield and Oscar. Each will offer choices of plans at different prices and with different coverage levels. Last year, 249,395 people in New Jersey enrolled in insurance plans through the Marketplace, and 79 percent of them received help paying for premiums. By shopping, comparing plans and asking questions, you can find the right plan to protect you and your family.

Yes, some premiums have increased, as you've heard, mostly due to a lot of uncertainty around the health care law. But even if your premium does increase for 2018, financial help to pay those premiums is also likely to increase. The only way to know how much help you're eligible to receive is to make sure all of your information is correct, whether it's your first time applying through the Marketplace or re-enrolling in the same plan you had last year.

Access to care is essential to being healthy, and health insurance is essential to having access. The very last day to apply for 2018 Marketplace health insurance is Dec. 15, but don't wait for the last minute in case the system gets overwhelmed. Apply now at healthcare.gov.  If you need help applying, a list of certified application counselors can be found at CoverNJ.org.

Aline Holmes, RN, DNP, is senior vice president of clinical affairs for the New Jersey Hospital Association, a health care trade organization committed to helping its members deliver high-value health care in their communities.

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Aline Holmes, DNP, RN, is the senior vice president of clinical affairs for NJHA, as well as the program co-leader of the New Jersey Nursing Initiative. She leads the New Jersey Hospital Improvement Innovation Network under the national Partnership for Patients initiative. A U.S. Navy Nurse Corps veteran, Holmes completed her doctorate in nursing leadership at Rutgers University. 

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