Open enrollment for ACA begins this month

Published 8:27 am Thursday, November 12, 2015 Stock imagery

Open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act began Nov. 1 and will close Jan. 31, 2016. 

Coverage will begin in January. 

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People can apply four ways, either online through the government’s website, by phone, in person or with a paper application. 

Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg is hosting a series of informational sessions until the enrolment window closes in January. Pat Riley, the director of insurance operations for the hospital, is a certified application counselor for the ACA enrollment program and he leads the informational sessions.

Riley said even though this is the third year of the program, many Mississippians could have affordable insurance who currently do not have any.

“There are people who could get a very good insurance plan at a low price,” he said. “They don’t have a thing to lose to come and talk to someone.” 

Locally, two insurers are available through the federal health insurance exchange. They are UnitedHealthcare and Humana. 

Under the Affordable Care Act most people are required to have some sort of health insurance. This includes health insurance through an employer, Medicare, Medicaid and insurance through the federal healthcare exchange. People who do not have health insurance for more than a few months must pay a tax penalty. 

According to, the federal health insurance website, the penalty for not having health insurance in 2016 may be as high as 2.5 percent of the household income or the total cost of the cheapest average price of the cheapest insurance plan available through the healthcare exchange. Per person the penalty could be as high as $2,085. Most plans cost around $300 per month or more, but Riley pointed out federal subsidies are available to bring the costs down for some people. However, people who do not earn very much money may not qualify for the subsidies.

“One of the main things that causes problems is, the way the subsidy money is structured, you have to have a certain level of income before you qualify for a subsidy,” Riley said. 

Part of the federal healthcare plan was an expansion of Medicaid, so low-income individuals and families who had not qualified for the federal health insurance program would now qualify, but each state had to agree to expand the healthcare program. Mississippi did not expand the program, and as a consequence, Riley said there are still people who cannot afford any insurance plan. 

“Because Mississippi didn’t expand Medicaid, a lot of people fall through the gap,” he said. 

To find out more about the insurance through the federal exchange, visit or set up an appointment with Kristy Moran at Highland Community Hospital. Riley said Moran, like himself, is also a certified application counselor. 

Moran can be reached at 601-358-9427.

There will also be an informational class about insurance options Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Forrest General Hospital. To find out more, visit