Missed your chance last year to buy a health insurance plan through President Obama’s health care law?  You have another opportunity.

The 2015 open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace starts today.

The online marketplace, at HealthCare.gov, is where Illinoisans are supposed to be able to shop for more affordable health insurance plans for 2015, with the help of tax subsidies.

Consumers can purchase a health insurance plan on the marketplace from Nov. 15 through Feb. 15.  Lower-income people applying for the state-federal health program Medicaid, though, can enroll year-round.

Small businesses – those having 50 or fewer full-time employees – can also go to HealthCare.gov to look for 2015 employee plans in the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP.

Individuals who make between $11,670 and $46,680 are supposed to qualify for a tax credit that would help them pay their premiums, if purchased through the marketplace on HealthCare.gov.  A family of four would need to make about $23,850 to $95,400.

The U.S. Supreme Court will be weighing in on whether those subsidies are legal in 36 states, including Illinois, that have a federally-run marketplace.  A ruling is expected around June 2015.  In the meantime, The Obama administration has said that consumers would continue getting tax credits in the meantime, but declined to say what would happen if the Court ruled against the subsidies.

Illinois’ General Assembly could also create a state-based exchange, though past attempts to do so have stalled.

The penalty for not having health insurance – whether it be through work or through the marketplace — will be 2 percent of income or $325 per person next year, up from $90 or 1 percent this year. It will continue to increase.
More than 217,000 people in Illinois had bought a health insurance plan on the online marketplace as of April 19, the most recent figure available.  Of those, 77 percent of Illinois residents got help to pay for health insurance, the federal government has said.

An additional 500,000 Illinoisans have signed up for Medicaid as of this week, which was expanded under the Affordable Care Act.

People who already purchased a plan last year will be automatically enrolled in the same plan for 2015, if they take no action, the federal government has said.

But experts encouraged Illinois consumers to check and see if there are better prices available in 2015 than were in 2014, because more insurers are taking part in the marketplace this time around.

For those who want help in applying, there will again be so-called “navigators” trained to walk people through the process on the marketplace.  To find a navigator in your area who can walk you through the enrollment process, go to getcoveredillinois.gov/get-help/.

You can also call Get Covered Illinois at (866) 311-1119 or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services call center at (800) 318-2596.