The open enrollment period for Obamacare is coming up in just a few short months. If you are hoping to sign up for or change your enrollment status, you can do so from November 1, 2016-Jan 31, 2017. For new coverage, if you want it to start at the beginning of the New Year you will need to sign up by Dec 15. Many plans change or end at the end of the year, so meeting this deadline is important to ensure no gaps in coverage.

The deadlines last year were originally the same dates as this year, but because of overwhelming demand the government ended up extending the deadline to Dec. 17. The last few days before the deadline saw call volumes that were unheard of and even prompted a system of ‘leave a message and we will call you back’ (essentially a phone version of taking a number.) Since they were unprepared, the federal government made the decision to extend the deadline, hoping to cover as many people at the start of the new year as possible.

Last year was not the first year Obamacare was available, so many were surprised by the influx of those enrolling. One explanation might be that the penalty for not having insurance went up from the year before. It is slated to go up this year as well, potentially driving additional increases in enrollment. We may see deadline extensions this year as well, but don’t count on it if you are in need of coverage starting Jan. 1. Since you have an entire month and a half to sign up before then, it would be wise not to procrastinate until mid-December.

For those whose primary concern is avoiding the fine, they have until January 31 to sign up. The fine last year was $695 per adult, or 2.5% of the household income, whichever is higher. This year it will be higher than last, though the increase will likely not be as steep as it has been in the past.

In California, the state-run insurance, Covered California, saw similar increases in enrollment and extended their deadlines as well. The state of California has one of the highest rates of those that are eligible being enrolled. Many other states, such as New York, followed suit with deadline extensions.

The increased interest in Obamacare thrilled health care officials, evidenced by their blog which encouraged people to sign up, citing benefits of signing up such as coverage for preexisting conditions. The blog post even got into the Christmas spirit, surmising that Ebenezer Scrooge probably did not offer benefits (which would probably be accurate were he a real person, however, it is doubtful that benefits were a ‘thing’ in 18th century England).

While there seems to be increasing interest in Obamacare, it sadly hasn’t been the solution to everyone’s health care woes. It does help get coverage for those that were struggling to get it in the past, but health care costs have also risen steeply since it was implemented. Whether you have private insurance, Obamacare, or no insurance at all, searchRx will help you find the lowest cost medications for you and your family.