Everything You Need to Know About 2016 Marketplace Open Enrollment

Marketplace open enrollment for 2016 health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act is now in full swing. For many, evaluating health care coverage options is a really big decision, as it affects both health choices and finances, but with the right information and tools at hand, the process of signing up for and later reporting health care coverage on tax returns is simpler than ever. Here are some important things to know.

New Open Enrollment Dates
For 2016, open enrollment for Marketplace health insurance coverage through healthcare.cov or your state exchange will be running through Sunday, January 31, 2016. However, if you would like your coverage to take effect on January 1, 2016, it is important to make sure to select your plan by December 15, 2015.

Even if you are already enrolled in a plan through your Health Insurance Marketplace, make sure to check that the plan you selected last year still works for you and your family in 2016 (premiums and coverage details can change from year to year).

Helpful Tools for Open Enrollment
Selecting an insurance plan is an important financial decision and you should carefully weigh your options. Luckily, there are free tools and calculators out there to give you the information you need to choose the level of health care coverage that makes the most sense for you.

If you shop around on healthcare.gov, you will see a new website feature that will help you get an estimate of your total costs under different health plans, depending on whether you expect to use a low, medium or high volume of medical services.

You can also easily estimate your household 2016 income with TurboTax Health Care Income Estimator to determine how much assistance you may be eligible for in the Marketplace to help you pay for health insurance.

Once you have your estimated income, you can even obtain a personalized estimate of out-of-pocket costs for 2016 through Get Covered Plan Explorer. This free tool will allow you to sort and filter plans, so you can pick the plan that suits all your health care needs.

Understand the Implications of Going Uninsured
As a reminder, the fee for not having health coverage in 2016 has increased to $695 per adult or about 2.5 percent of your household income, whichever is greater. If you choose to go without health insurance for 2016, TurboTax also has a Health Care Penalty Calculator, which allows you to see how much penalty you may face. It might be wise to shop for a plan that works best for you and your family, rather than paying a fee.

Remember that this is also a good time to see if you might also be eligible for an employer or government-sponsored plan, such as Medicare or Medicaid, depending on your circumstances.

These easy-to-use free tools can make shopping for a health care plan a breeze. Open enrollment is open -- it's time to start exploring your options for you and your family!