Health insurance guide: 3 next steps for enrollees

(AP) - The Christmas Eve deadline to enroll via HeatlhCare.gov for health care insurance that starts Jan. 1 has passed.

The federal website received 2 million visits on Monday, and heavy _ but not as heavy _ traffic on Tuesday. A White House spokeswoman said there was no immediate estimate of visitors or how many succeeded in obtaining insurance before the deadline.

Here are some tips for those who met the deadline and those who didn't.

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MET THE DEADLINE?

1. Allow a few days for your application to reach the insurance company providing your health plan, then call to make sure it has been successfully processed.

2. If you didn't click "pay now" when you enrolled, make sure you send your first monthly premium payment to your insurance company by Jan. 10. You won't be covered until you've paid.

3. Learn about the details of your health plan. What's covered? What do you pay for out of pocket? Find out which doctors and hospitals are covered in the plan's network. Learn what services the insurer provides, such as 24-hour hotlines and online health resources.

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MISSED THE DEADLINE

1. If you're uninsured and still want coverage, you can still sign up. Your coverage will start as soon as Feb. 1 if you choose a plan and pay before mid-January.

2. You can window-shop to compare the details on plans available in your region. Click on "See plans before I apply" at HealthCare.gov. Many state online marketplaces also offer this window-shopping feature.

3. Enrollment ends March 31. Miss that deadline and you'll pay a tax penalty for next year of $95 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is higher. Some people may qualify for an exemption because of hardships or if their insurance policy was canceled.

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SOURCES: America's Health Insurance Plans, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Consumers Union


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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