Even though the enrollment period stays open through Jan. 31, 2017, to avoid further penalties in 2017 for being uninsured, consumers should make enrollment by Dec. 15 a priority.

Missourians who want to start 2017 with health insurance coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace must enroll by today, Dec. 15. Even though the enrollment period stays open through Jan. 31, 2017, to avoid further penalties in 2017 for being uninsured, consumers should make enrollment by Dec. 15 a priority.

Consumers who enroll after Dec. 15 will not begin receiving health coverage until at least February 2017. To help uninsured Missourians, in-person assisters are available free of charge throughout the state via the Cover Missouri Coalition to help people find the right plan, see if they qualify for financial help and simplify the process of signing up.

If consumers choose not to enroll in 2017 health coverage, they'll pay one of two penalty amounts, whichever is greater: 2.5 percent of the individual's yearly household income OR $695 per person ($347.50 per child under 18). The maximum penalty amount per person is $2,085. It is important for consumers to know that if they delay enrolling in health insurance until after Dec. 15 and did not have health insurance in 2016, they will pay 1/12 of the annual penalty amount for each month they or their tax dependents are uninsured. Consumers should enroll by Jan. 15, 2017 for coverage starting Feb. 1, 2017. Consumers should enroll by Jan. 31, 2017 for coverage starting March 1, 2017. If a consumer had coverage in 2016 but waits until Jan. 31, 2017, to enroll, they may qualify for the “short gap” exemption and will not have to pay the fee at all. For more information on the penalty for not having health insurance, visit healthcare.gov.

Consumers can find in-person help near them by visiting https://findlocalhelp.covermissouri.org/, or by calling the dedicated toll-free call center (800-466-3213) where consumers can talk to an expert and make an appointment with a local assister. In addition to in-person help, information and resources are available at covermissouri.org.