sign-up moved up to Dec. 15

- With the holiday season in full swing, your to-do list can get really long, but there's one date you don't want to leave off your calendar.

December 15 is the last day to enroll in an insurance plan through the marketplace under the Health Care Reform Act.

The enrollment period is much shorter this year. Katherine Skube is a director at Tampa’s Florida Blue Center and says an administrative change in Washington rolled back the open enrollment time that previously lasted until January 31.

Financial assistance is available for individuals making up to $48,240, couples making $64,960, and families of four making up to $98,400.

Premiums are based on the plan you choose with costs that may be offset by higher subsidies.

“All plans, all the subsidies went up for everybody, so people that pick instead of a silver plan, a bronze plan, it’s a little lower plan, these people are walking away with no premiums at all. They don't have to pay any bill to the insurance company,” Skube said.

Under current law, plans must cover pre-existing conditions and don't have lifetime caps. That means no matter how catastrophic your care - you won't get cut off.

But if you look closely at some of the short-term plans, those provisions don't apply.

Another thing to look for are deductibles, co-pays, and yearly out of pocket maximums

“Different plans have different amounts of what that dollar threshold is but once you hit that amount, the rest of the year every covered service is covered at 100 percent,” Skube said.

So if your holiday spending is leaving you short on funds - as long as you pay before January 1, 2018, you'll be covered. And if you sign up and find a better plan - you're not locked in.

“If you purchase a plan today and you say, ‘Oh, I want to look at something different,’ and you change your mind… whatever you purchase by the fifteenth of the month, that’s the plan that you have for the rest of the year,” Skube said.

Florida Blue offices are open seven days a week to help consumers navigate the website.

Be sure to ask which providers are covered in your plan and whether you have to meet the full deductible before coverage begins and that it meets the guidelines of the current law.

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