It’s that time of year again!  If you haven’t applied for insurance on before, here is a guide to navigating the Health Insurance Marketplace (also called the health insurance “exchange”).

What is Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance?

Most Southern Illinoisians know the ACA as Obamacare.  It is the insurance marketplace that was set up as part of the national health care reform law enacted in March 2010.

The goal of the Affordable Care Act is to make affordable health insurance available to more Americans.  

Who should enroll in an ACA healthcare plan?

Anyone who doesn’t already have health insurance coverage through an employer, Medicare, Medicaid, or another source can shop for insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace.

If you are uninsured and thinking about filing a Social Security Disability insurance claim, you will need medical evidence to prove your case.  Since good medical evidence is crucial to the strength of your claim, it is very important that you have a health insurance plan and are able to be evaluated by a doctor.

When is the open enrollment period?

The open enrollment period is shorter this year than those in the past.  This year, it runs from November 1 to December 15.

How do I enroll in an ACA healthcare plan?

There are four basic ways you can enroll in an Affordable Care Act health insurance plan.

What should I know about enrolling online?

If you choose to enroll in insurance online, be aware that the website will experience planned downtime for maintenance on most Sunday mornings during the enrollment period from 12AM to 12PM Eastern time.  Sunday, December 10 is the exception to this rule.

Reportedly, the website is also scheduled to be down overnight on November 1.

Where can I go to get free enrollment assistance in Southern Illinois?

Shawnee Health Service, with offices in Carbondale and Murphysboro, is offering free in-person assistance for those who need help enrolling in ACA health coverage.

Carbondale Office
400 South Lewis Lane,
Carbondale, Illinois 62901

Murphysboro Office
7 South Hospital Drive
Murphysboro, Illinois 62966

A full list of participating locations is as follows:


Click here to download this table as a PDF for print.

Joni Beth Bailey is a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability attorney.