You can only apply for or change plans during open enrollment. • Courtesy Photo
You can only apply for or change plans during open enrollment. • Courtesy Photo

For those who missed the open enrollment deadline for Obamacare earlier this year, the next enrollment period begins on November 15 and runs through February 15 next year.

Open enrollment is the only time of year a person can get a major medical plan that counts as minimum essential coverage in the individual and family market without qualifying for a special enrollment period. Minimum essential coverage is the type of coverage an individual needs to have to meet the individual responsibility requirement under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

When open enrollment starts on November 15, International Community Health Services (ICHS) will be assisting the community with enrollment at its four locations. ICHS is strongly encouraging people to call the ICHS Call Center at (206) 788-3700 to make appointments.

“It is important to understand that if you are not satisfied with your current health insurance plan, then you should apply for a different plan during open enrollment,” said ICHS Outreach and Enrollment Coordinator Jee H. Kim. “Many are not aware that you can only apply for or change plans during this time. Also, if you do not apply, you may pay a higher penalty.”

Kim said the most common obstacles people encounter are “technical errors” in which people are getting different error codes(or not able to proceed to the next step in the application process because people don’t realize they are inputting inaccurate information).

“Although the Exchange has made vast improvements in terms of fixing errors, they still exist,” Kim said. “Also, many immigrant elders who are not working (due to age) and have lived in the U.S. for less than 5 years do not qualify for anything under the ACA. Medicaid and medicare programs require at least 5 year residency to qualify. These people also do not qualify for ‘Tax Credit’ (aka premium discount) to purchase health insurance in the market place because they do not pay taxes. They would need to pay the full premium (very expensive). As a result, immigrant elders are falling through the cracks.”

Kim said the enrollment process can be confusing and complicated for many people and that they should always consult with a certified in-person assister (IPA) if they have any questions. ICHS certified IPAs are available to provide in-language service for free to all community members.

For more information on ICHS services, visit

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