Deadline for Delawareans to sign up for or to change their health coverage for 2018 through the Health Insurance Marketplace is Dec. 15.

Deadline for Delawareans to sign up for or to change their health coverage for 2018 through the Health Insurance Marketplace is Dec. 15, with coverage for those who enroll by that date and who pay their first premium beginning Jan. 1, 2018.

State residents can sign up for coverage at HealthCare.gov or by calling 800-318-2596.

As of Dec. 2, 8,846 Delawareans had signed up for 2018 coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, an increase of 7.3 percent from a similar period last year. For 2017, more than 27,000 people enrolled for coverage, including 73 percent who re-enrolled and 27 percent who were new enrollees.

Consumers can go to HealthCare.gov to shop for coverage for 2018, compare plans and to enroll before midnight Dec. 15. Individuals who need help enrolling can receive free in-person assistance from federally funded and trained specialists at several Delaware organizations, including Westside Family Healthcare, 1802 W. Fourth St., Wilmington; Chatman LLC, 4601 Concord Pike, Wilmington; Henrietta Johnson Medical Center at 601 New Castle Ave., or 600 N. Lombard St., in Wilmington; and La Red Health Center, 21444 Carmean Way, Georgetown.

About 81 percent of those enrolled on Delaware’s Marketplace for 2017 received tax credits to help pay their monthly premiums. Financial help is available to individuals with an annual household income up to $47,520 and up to $97,200 for a family of four.

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware is the only insurer on Delaware’s Marketplace after Aetna announced earlier this year that it would not sell marketplace plans for 2018. That means enrollees who have coverage with Aetna for 2017 must choose one of seven Highmark medical plans that are available for purchase in 2018 or they will be automatically enrolled in a similar plan offered by Highmark. Highmark’s plans include one gold plan, three silver, two bronze and one catastrophic. The categories are based on how enrollees choose to split the costs of care with their insurance company. Bronze plans have low monthly premiums, but high costs when you need care; gold plans have high premiums, but lower costs when you need care.

Two insurers — Delta Dental of Delaware Inc. and Dominion Dental Services Inc. — offer a collective 12 stand-alone dental plans, six with a low actuarial level, 70 percent, and six with a high actuarial level, 85 percent.

In addition to the Health Insurance Marketplace, some residents might be eligible for coverage through Delaware's expanded Medicaid program, which is open year-round. More than 10,000 Delawareans received coverage under the Medicaid expansion.

Under the Affordable Care Act, individuals who can afford health coverage but who choose not to buy it are subject to paying a fee when they file their federal tax return for the year they don't have coverage. For 2017, the fee will be equal to the higher of these amounts: 2.5 percent of annual household income or $695 per adult, plus $347.50 for each child younger than 18. The maximum amount is $2,085 per household. In addition to the fee, consumers will be responsible for the total cost of any health care expenses they incur. Without changes by Congress, the same tax penalties will be in effect for 2018 as well.

Consumers can estimate their penalty using the penalty calculator on ChooseHealthDE.com.

After open enrollment ends Dec. 15, Delawareans can enroll in coverage only if they experience a life event that qualifies them for a special enrollment period. Among the many qualifying life events are birth or adoption of a child, a permanent move, loss of other coverage through their job and marriage.