People who choose not to buy health insurance by Friday may face a penalty of over $600

Delawareans without health insurance may risk paying over $600 if they don’t enroll by Dec. 15.

Individuals who are able to afford coverage but choose not to register with the Delaware Health Insurance Marketplace - the state exchange for the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare) - will face a penalty.

Consumers can estimate their penalty using the penalty calculator available at

For 2017, the maximum penalty won’t exceed $2,085 per household, but it will equal the higher of 2.5 percent of your annual household income or $695 per person ($347.50 per child under age 18). In addition, people who haven’t bought a health insurance policy will be responsible for all the health expenses they incur.

Financial help is available for individuals with annual incomes up to $47,520; for a family of four the income limit is $97,200.

To enroll in Obamacare, consumers can visit

Jill Fredel, director of communications for the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, said it’s a good idea not to chance it when it comes to your health.

“If you don’t have health insurance you’re more likely to put things off because you’re afraid of what the cost might be out of pocket,” she said. “Or you might let things progress until you’re really sick and you go to the emergency room. We know when people have that connection to care, they’re so much better off.

“They can have access to preventive care, things like flu shots and mammograms.”

Navigators help you 

People who need assistance deciding which plans meet their and their family’s needs will have access to free in-person assistance from federally funded and trained specialists, known as navigators, at several organizations throughout the state.

Navigators include Westside Family Healthcare (Kent and New Castle counties), Chatman LLC (statewide), Henrietta Johnson Medical Center (New Castle) and La Red Health Center (Sussex).

Westside Family Healthcare has a been navigator since 2013, and its staff works with consumers by phone or in person.

Most of Westside’s specialists are bilingual, with the ability to interpret Haitian Creole and Spanish, said Maggie Norris-Bent, director of external affairs.

“What we find is people come back time and time again to get help from us,” Norris-Bent said. “I think it’s because they know we’re a trusted source and we can provide that extra support.”

In late October, Gov. John Carney encouraged residents to meet with navigators: “I urge Delawareans to shop early for a plan [and] meet with in-person assisters to get help understanding your options.”

Norris-Bent said the amount of time to select a plan with a navigator can vary, from 30 minutes to a couple hours. It depends on variables like how familiar the consumer is with the process.

Sara Arana Cruz, Westside enrollment and outreach coordinator in Dover, said last year the deadline for Obamacare was extended. But this year people will likely have only until the end of this week to sign up.

Coverage is ‘so important’ 

In 2008, an estimated 100,000-plus Delawareans had no health insurance. By 2016 that was cut in half, Fredel said.

The more people with health care, the better, the Department of Health spokeswoman added.

“Just to have that connection where someone knows your history, knows you have diabetes, asthma or some chronic condition and they have been following you - establishing a relationship is so important,” Fredel said.