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Southfield – Time is running out to purchase mandated health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The deadline is midnight Sunday, January 31.

If individuals don’t enroll in a health insurance plan by midnight Sunday, they cannot enroll in a health insurance plan for 2016 unless they qualify for a special enrollment period, which includes marriage, job change, etc.

But the best reason to jump on it immediately, according to health care experts, is to avoid facing a tax penalty of $695, or 2.5 percent of their household income, whichever is higher.

“This means if you make $50,000 per year, your penalty would be more than $1,200 at tax time,” said Rick Notter, director of Individual Business at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “A recent Citi Research report projects millions of Americans will be able to purchase health insurance this year for less than the penalty for not having insurance.”

Notter added that BCBS of Michigan continues to have “great response from members enrolling over the phone with our Health Plan Advisors but we’re also seeing an increase in visits to Blue Cross’ multiple walk-in center locations statewide, which offer consumers an opportunity to sit down with an advisor and discuss their needs and options in-person. Blue Cross Health Plan Advisors help consumers find a plan that meets their unique health needs at a price they can afford.”

Detroit-based insurer Health Alliance Plan extended their hours Saturday and will repeat it Sunday.

“The vast majority of people are calling by phone or participating in live chats online, but we are available in person if people want to meet face-to-face,” said Lee Ann Welsh, HAP spokeswoman in the Southfield office on Saturday. “We are open until 10 pm Saturday, and from 9 am until midnight on Sunday.”

Those who still need to purchase insurance can visit healthcare.gov for tips, or they can call the Marketplace call center at (800) 318-2596 24 hours a day. A customer service representative can assist in filling out an application, choosing a plan and completing enrollment.

If you apply by midnight Sunday, coverage begins March 1, 2016, said Welch.

“If they had applied by December 15, 2015, coverage would have begun January 1, 2016.”

SLewis@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2296

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