If you or someone you care about does not have health insurance, it's not too late to sign up for quality affordable coverage: But you'll want to act today. The deadline to get insurance is March 31. After that, you'll have to wait until November 2014 to sign up.
Many of the people I've met have told me they were surprised at just how affordable marketplace insurance can be. Here in Chattanooga, a family of four earning $50,000 a year can get covered for as little as $136 per month. A 27-year-old earning $25,000 can get covered for as little as $105 per month.
Security and peace of mind are just a click or call away. You may even find that you're eligible for assistance to lower the cost of your premium.
You can sign up 24 hours a day, seven days a week at HealthCare.gov (which is working smoothly) or at 1-800-318-2596. You can even get in-person help in your own community: Just visit localhelp.healthcare.gov and enter your ZIP code. If you are a Spanish speaker, you can access our Spanish language website at CuidadoDeSalud.gov and you can get in-person help in Spanish, too.
So don't delay. Join the 5 million Americans who have already signed up for a plan.
Let me tell you about one of these people who lives here in Tennessee. Emily Wright worked at a pizza place and lived paycheck to paycheck, so she wasn't able to afford health coverage for years. With endometriosis and asthma she learned to live with pain. Surgery could help, but since she couldn't cover the cost herself, it wasn't an option. Emily went to HealthCare.gov to find out her options as soon as she was able, and eventually found a plan that met her needs. She chose a Gold plan, which - for just $125 a month - covered the surgery she needed to alleviate the pain caused by her endometriosis.
Before the Affordable Care Act hardworking families in Chattanooga had few real options. Even if you worked hard and took responsibility, you could still have the rug pulled out from under you if you or someone in your family got sick, had an accident or experienced another hardship. You could pay your premium dutifully every month, only to have your insurer refuse to pay for care when you needed it most because you hit an annual or lifetime cap in coverage expenses.
But today, here in Chattanooga it truly is a new day. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, there is choice and competition. In fact, you can now choose from 61 qualified health plans. Before the Affordable Care Act, many consumers had few if any real choices.
Unlike the old system, once you enroll, nobody can take your coverage away from you just because you get sick. And your insurance company can't charge you more just because you are a woman; being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition.
What's more, by law, insurance companies now have to cover health services like doctor's visits, prescription drugs, ambulatory care and hospital stays. Preventive care like cancer and cholesterol screenings are covered with no additional money out of your pocket.
But if you don't enroll by March 31, you won't get this security that comes with a Marketplace plan - and you can't enroll again until this fall.
The good news is that security for you and your family is only a click or call away: You just need to sign up by March 31 if you want Marketplace coverage this year.
Don't delay, sign up today.
Kathleen Sebelius is the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services.