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When Can You Sign Up For Health Care? Open Enrollment Ends Soon

The year is coming to a close, and while you're crossing items off your end-of-year goals (or holiday shopping list), now's a good time to make sure you've got health insurance for next year. Things have been relatively quiet on the public-info front, so if you've got questions about when you can get health care, here are some answers. First things first: The open enrollment period for 2019 ends on Dec. 15, and applies for both first-time and renewing consumers, so don't miss out.

The enrollment period for coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, opened on Nov. 1. For those that register by the Dec. 15 deadline, their plans will go into effect starting on Jan. 1. Note that this enrollment window is shorter than it was in previous years under President Barack Obama, so be sure to mark your calendars.

For anyone still shopping for plans, the official healthcare.gov site is a good place to start. It has a guide to help users navigate plans and estimate pricing based on factors like where you live and what coverage needs you have. When you're ready to register, you may also want to check the handy program's checklist to be sure you have everything you need to get signed up quickly and painlessly.

It's important to note that not all states have the same deadline for enrollment — eight states and the District of Columbia all moved to extend their deadlines to accommodate enrollees, so be sure to check what your state's deadline is here.

If you have a big life event that threw your grand plans to enroll way off track, don't panic. If you miss the deadline due to some unforeseen or logically complicating circumstances, such as getting married or moving, you might be eligible for an extension. Check it out here.

If you haven't heard heads or tails about enrollment this year, you're not alone. President Donald Trump and his administration have hardly made a peep about it in the last several weeks. Under President Obama, the program spent $100 million on advertising in 2016, per Vox — now, that budget has been slashed to just $10 million under Trump. Elite Daily reached out to the White House and to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for comment on the outreach efforts but did not receive a response by time of publication.

The lack of advertising may in part explain why so many advocacy groups and Democratic politicians are sharing the word about enrollment on social media.

In the three weeks since the enrollment period opened, the president's administration has been doing little to get the word out about the enrollment and its Dec. 15 deadline. Trump has long been a critic of Obamacare and ran on a platform that included dismantling the program in 2016. In August 2017, the administration announced massive cuts to the ACA's budget, stripping 90 percent of its allowances for advertising and 41 percent for the in-person enrollment outreach program. As a result, the task would be largely left up to health care advocates and local- and state-level governments to get the word out about when and how to enroll.

Last year, about 9 million people enrolled in the program. So far, in the two-plus weeks between enrollment's opening on Nov. 1 and Nov. 17, there have been just 1.9 million enrollees, per CMS.

But that wasn't all. In July 2018, Trump dealt the ACA another blow by further slashing the outreach program for in-person enrollment, from the 41 percent cut to 70 percent cut — a move that left some health care advocates dumbfounded. "I am almost speechless," Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids & Families, told USA Today in July. "Do we look at what's easiest to get most numbers (of signups), or do we concentrate on those who are the most time-consuming to assist?" The move, she added, would essentially pit different populations against each other.

Per the Center for American Progress, without any of these extreme policy changes, the country would be looking at a projected target of over 12 million enrollees. But thanks to the advertising cuts, as projected by Get Covered America, as many as 2 million fewer people may enroll this year as a result of lack of information.

Finally, as an added complication, the healthcare.gov website, per The Hill, was scheduled to be down for a total of 60 hours to perform website maintenance during the open enrollment period. (That's apparently the maximum time allotted for maintenance.) The site was said to be closed from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET each Sunday except the last one — so as of now, the site will presumably be down on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 2. but not on Dec. 9. Elite Daily reached out to CMS to confirm that these hours have been in effect as planned, but didn't hear back at time of publication.

So whether or not you've been made aware of the enrollment period, with two and a half weeks left, there's still time to get yourself — or your friends and family members — covered for 2019.