For you last-minute shoppers, only a few hours remain before the deadline to sign up on for an insurance policy that will take...

For you last-minute shoppers, only a few hours remain before the deadline to sign up on for an insurance policy that will take effect Jan. 1.

healthcaregovYou have to enroll in a plan by Monday to have coverage starting at the beginning of 2014. Health insurers have agreed to take payment for that coverage until Jan. 10.

The New York Times’ Tara Siegel Bernard has an excellent explanation of what you should know for a successful shopping experience. She lays out what you need to consider in terms of deductibles, networks and drug plans, as well as premiums you will pay.

Remember that you have until March 31 to obtain a policy before you’re subject to paying a penalty for not having coverage.

Speaking of that penalty, known as the individual mandate, the Obama administration Thursday night slipped in a late gift to help people who have had individual health policies canceled.

If you are among the people facing cancellations, you will be exempt from penalties if you go without insurance next year, the White House said.

And if canceled, you also will be allowed to buy catastrophic coverage — generally designed for people under age 30, or those who qualify for a hardship exemption from the requirement to obtain coverage.

Insurers voiced surprise and dismay at the new policy, the Times reported.

“This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers,” said Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group.

Meanwhile, if you are among the 150 million Americans who get health insurance through your job, you should expect to pay more, USA Today reports. You will probably bring higher deductibles and copayments, penalties for not joining wellness programs and smaller employer contributions toward family coverage.

While some workers and employers put all the blame on the Affordable Care Act for those changes, benefit experts say the law is mainly accelerating trends that predate it, the newspaper reported.

Health care costs always go up, experts note.

So whatever type of employer plan you have, you’re probably going to be paying more.

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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

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