There are seven shopping days left until Christmas. But there are just five days until another important deadline — the last day to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act if you want coverage to start January 1.
After a slow start, activity on the federal website HealthCare.gov has been heavy all month. And with the deadline approaching, some people are getting worried that they won't get signed up in time.
And this being the health care law, it's complicated. There is more than one deadline.
The first, for people in the 36 states where the federal government is running the program, is Dec. 23. That's the date by which you have to select a plan.
But you're not actually enrolled in the plan until you pay the first month's premium. The original payment deadline was Dec. 31. But just today, the insurance industry voluntarily agreed to give people until Jan. 10 to pay that first month's premium. You pay it directly to your new insurance plan, not to the exchange where you signed up.
A few states running their own exchanges have extended that date even longer. Maryland, which has had all kinds of problems with its website, is giving people until Dec. 27 to sign up, and until Jan. 15 to pay that first month's premium.
Oregon has been processing our application for about a week, which mostly consists of verifying we're who we say we are. They said it's possible we could still have the insurance by the 1st. They too have extended deadlines for applying. We're not ill and still have insurance so it's less critical that for some people, but the insurance on the exchange is going to cost less and have a lower deductible. So the sooner we can cancel the insurance we have, the better.