If you or someone you care about does not have health care, it's not too late to sign up for quality affordable coverage: but you'll want to act today. The deadline to get insurance is today, March 31, 2014. After that, you'll have to wait until November 2014 to sign up, and your coverage won't begin until next year.Many of the people I've met have told me they were surprised at just how affordable Marketplace insurance can be. In Charleston, a family of four earning $50,000 a year can get covered for as little as $101 per month. A 27-year-old earning $25,000 can get covered for as little as $95 per month.Security and peace of mind are just a click or call away. You may even find that you're eligible for assistance to lower the cost of your premium.You must sign up today on HealthCare.gov (which is working smoothly) or at 1-800-318-2596.If you are in line by today's deadline to complete enrollment, we'll make sure you get covered. You can even get in-person help in your own community: Just visit localhelp.healthcare.gov and punch in your zip code. If you are a Spanish speaker, you can access our Spanish language website at CuidadoDeSalud.gov and you can get in-person help in Spanish, too.So don't delay! Join the 6 million Americans who have already signed up for a plan and the millions more who've learned they're eligible for Medicaid for this year.Before the Affordable Care Act, hardworking families in Charleston had few real options. Even if you worked hard and took responsibility, you could still have the rug pulled out from under you if you or someone in your family got sick, had an accident or experienced another hardship. You could pay your premium dutifully every month, only to have your insurer refuse to pay for care when you needed it most because you hit an annual or lifetime cap in coverage expenses.
But today, here in Charleston it truly is a new day. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, there is choice and competition. In fact, you can now choose from 12 qualified health plans. Before the Affordable Care Act, many consumers had few if any real choices.Unlike the old system, once you enroll, nobody can take your coverage away from you just because you get sick. And your insurance company can't charge you more just because you are a woman; being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition!What's more, by law, insurance companies now have to cover health services like doctor's visits, prescription drugs, ambulatory care, and hospital stays. Preventive care like cancer and cholesterol screenings are covered with no additional money out of your pocket.But if you don't enroll or get in line by today, March 31st, you won't get this security that comes with a Marketplace plan — and you can't enroll again until this fall.The good news is that security for you and your family is only a click or call away: You just need to sign up today if you want Marketplace coverage this year.Don't delay, sign up today!Kathleen Sebelius is secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.