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By Kimberly Minor
October 9, 2013
Caption : Open Enrollment has begun for the Affordable Care Act and will remain open through March 31, 2014. After that, individuals will not be able to enroll in the ACA health insurance plans again until October 2014.     

Signed into law in 2010 by the Obama administration, the Affordable Care Act offers health care options for millions of Americans, including Millennials. With the implementation of the ACA’s exchanges this month, individuals can now enroll for health insurance via one of the plans offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace, also referred to as “exchanges.”

The current media hype surrounding the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, can make this enrollment process seem like a daunting and confusion process, but it’s actually very similar to the registration process for college classes. Think of HealthCare.gov as the syllabus that outlines important dates and deadlines throughout the enrollment period. Enrollment is open now and will close on March 31, 2014. Individuals will not be able to enroll in the ACA’s plans again until October 2014.

The Health Insurance Marketplace provides a new way to shop for health insurance, allowing you to choose from brand name, quality plans from which individuals can purchase. Healthcare.gov hosts the Marketplace and serves as the online shopping site where an individual can compare prices, compare benefits, and find explanations of healthcare jargon.

Here are four steps to begin the enrollment and registration process:

1. Visit the Marketplace at HealthCare.gov and click “Apply Now” on the home screen and proceed to select your state of residence from the drop-down box. Depending on your state, you might be directed to a different site, but don’t worry, it’s the same thing just that some states have chosen to run their own marketplaces.

2. Create an account by providing basic information like income and age. It’s a similar process to filling out other government forms.

3. With an account created, you will be able to review health care plans and programs for which you are eligible and compare their costs and coverage side-by-side.

4. Finally, choose the plan that best suits your health needs and budget.

Remember, individuals without health insurance will pay a tax if they are not insured by March 31, 2014, so don’t put registration off until the last minute.

There are other ways in which an individual can seek assistance in enrollment and registration. LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov provides contact information for local hospitals and public offices offering assistance in registration, you can get assistance via phone by calling 1-800-318-2596, and there’s even an online chat option to speak with trained and certified personnel at healthcare.gov/chat.

Have a health care story to share? We’d love to hear it — take 3 minutes and let us know.

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