There's good news for people who waited until the last minute to buy health insurance through Healthcare.gov. Or people who are learning right this second that federal open enrollment ends at 12:00 a.m. PST today.
If you leave a message on the HealthCare.gov call center hotline (1-800-318-2596) that includes your name and phone number, you'll still be able to get coverage for 2018. Per HealthCare.gov's Twitter account:
A CMS spokesperson confirmed in an emailed statement there was an uptick in volume on both HealthCare.gov and the call center.
"As a result, some callers are being asked to leave their contact information so they do not have to wait. We will call them back to assist them," the spokesperson said.
Call-backs from Healthcare.gov representatives could come after Dec. 15, so if you left a message on Friday with your information and haven't heard back just yet, there's no cause for alarm. A representative should call to enroll you in plan that starts Jan. 1, 2018.
Otherwise, for most people using the federal marketplace to get health insurance, failing to enroll today likely means having to wait another year to buy a plan. There are a few other exceptions.
If you miss the deadline
If you're reading this Saturday and realize you forgot all about health care, you aren't necessarily out of luck. You could qualify for a special enrollment period. These are generally triggered by big life events, like getting married or divorced, having a baby or moving.
If you have a 2017 plan, you may get automatically re-enrolled in that plan or one that's similar. If that's the case, you should have received a letter about what that plan would be from your insurer earlier this year.
Depending on where you live, you may have not missed the deadline at all. The last day to buy health insurance on the federal exchange is Friday, but many states with their own exchanges have enrollment periods that run into January. Check our state-by-state guide on open enrollment to learn the deadline where you live.
If you did miss the deadline, you're likely not alone. Open enrollment is half as long as it was last year, when it ran until Jan. 31. Even though 4.7 million people had signed up through Dec. 9, outpacing last year's rate of enrollments, the total signups are still expected to fall short of open enrollment 2017 because of the curtailed window.
If you need health insurance and are shut out of the marketplace, there are a few options you can pursue, including short-term policies, off-exchange plans (some are offered outside open enrollment), limited benefit plans and prescription discount cards. We've got more on these health care alternatives here.