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Time's running out to sign up for Obamacare

Tick tock. The Feb. 15 health insurance deadline for enrolling in a plan, changing plans, or getting subsidies to help with insurance costs under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is almost here. It’s not too late to sign up for health insurance, but you better move fast.

Get started now

Before you fill out your application, gather the documents you need and figure out whether you apply through HealthCare.gov, which handles insurance for 37 states, or whether you’ll need to apply through your state’s marketplace. Check this interactive map for a state-by-state look.

You’ll also want to determine whether you're eligible for a subsidy and how to apply for one. Our tips to get your application right can also help you move forward efficiently. Or use our Health Law Helper tool, below.

Do you qualify for more time?

If you sign up by Feb. 15, your health insurance will start March 1, 2015. After that, you won’t be able to get insurance that complies with the ACA until Jan. 2016, unless you have a "qualifying event." such as losing your insurance, having a baby, or getting married. In those and certain other cases, you could qualify for an exception to the Feb. 15 deadline. (If you’re eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, you can apply at any time throughout the year.)

What happens if you miss the health insurance deadline?

If you’re not eligible for Medicaid or don't qualify for an exception and you miss the health insurance deadline, you could face a financial penalty. If you’re worried about being without insurance, know that you'll be able to sign up for coverage of some sort after the deadline, but what’s available will be only short-term or temporary health insurance, which doesn’t have to offer the “essential benefits” of Obamacare.

—Diane Umansky

Read our advice on how to choose the best health care plan.  

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