No health insurance yet?

By Features Consumer Reports

We are now more than two-thirds of the way through the new health care law’s first annual open enrollment period. If you’re uninsured and haven’t signed up yet, you have until March 31 to get this done if you want to have health insurance in 2014. If you don’t you’ll be uninsured until 2015, as you can’t buy health insurance in between open enrollment periods except in a few specific circumstances, mostly involving losing another source of coverage because of  “life events” such as a move, a job loss, or a divorce.

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We hate to sound like a broken record, but it bears repeating that you should get insured as soon as possible. Every day without insurance is a day you risk your health and pocketbook in the event of a serious illness or injury.

And there’s no excuse not to. With a few exceptions, the state Health Insurance Marketplaces where you can purchase coverage are all humming along nicely—including the federal website, HealthCare.gov, which is handling insurance signups for 36 states.

The proof is in the monthly enrollment update that the federal government released today, showing that as of Feb. 1 there was a 53 percent increase over the total enrollment in private plans from the previous month. So far, nearly 3.3 million people have selected health plans through the marketplaces, and four out of five of them have obtained financial help to pay for it. And nearly 3.2 million have learned they are eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP).

Have all these new enrollments had any effect on the numbers of uninsured Americans? Possibly, judging from a new Gallup poll also released today. It found that 16 percent of Americans had no health insurance—down from 17.1 percent in the last quarter of 2013 and the lowest percentage this survey has recorded since early 2009. And it also found an uptick in the percentage of people who said they had health coverage they had bought on their own or obtained through Medicaid, which are the two major means by which the new health law is expanding coverage.

If you or someone you know still lacks health insurance and isn’t sure where to start the project of getting it, take advantage of our free online tool, HealthLawHelper.org. It will tell you what financial help you may be eligible for and what steps you need to take to get covered.

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Got a question for our health insurance expert? Ask it here; be sure to include the state you live in. And if you can't get enough health insurance news here, follow me on Twitter @NancyMetcalf.

We're providing regular coverage of the new health care law. To get health insurance advice tailored to your situation, use our Health Law Helper, below.

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