By Jann Wiswall

It’s open enrollment season at NY State of Health, so if you don’t have health insurance through a job, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or another source that provides qualifying coverage, the NY State of Health program can help you get covered.

According to its web site, what you pay for insurance depends on your expected income in 2016. Based on the income estimate you put on your application, the health marketplace can tell you if you qualify for a private health insurance plan or if you qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Keep in mind that even if you don’t qualify for Medicaid, your children may qualify for CHIP. So be sure to look at all your options.

The plans available through the marketplace are offered by private insurance companies with a range of prices and features. All plans cover essential health benefits, pre-existing conditions, including pregnancy, and preventive care. You can also add dental coverage to a health plan if you like, but you can’t buy just a dental plan.

You can access and apply for coverage online at, by phone at 1-855-355-5777 with in-person help (call Healthy Community Alliance at 716-532-1010 or Community Service Society of New York at 716-338-1024 to make an appointment) or with a paper application.

Remember, the federal healthcare marketplace, NY State of Health, Medicaid, CHIP and other federal programs exist to ensure that everyone has health insurance. If you choose not to carry insurance in 2016, you’ll pay a penalty on your 2016 federal taxes of either 2.5% of your income, or $695 per adult ($347.50 per child) — whichever is higher.

In some cases, you might qualify for an exemption from the requirement to have health insurance.

If you enroll by Dec. 15, your coverage starts Jan. 1, 2016. If you wait until Jan. 15, your coverage starts Feb. 1. If you enroll between Jan. 16 and Jan. 31, your coverage begins March 1.  After Jan. 31, 2016, you won’t be able to buy a health insurance plan for coverage in 2016 unless you have a life change — like having a baby, getting married or losing other health coverage — that qualifies you for a Special Enrollment Period.

There is no limited enrollment period for Medicaid or CHIP. You can apply any time.