Healthcare Open enrollment arrives each fall, but this year, like a Chicago fall, it only lasts a few weeks. If you have individual coverage or are enrolled in a small group healthcare plan, it pays to review your options, even if you’re happy with your current coverage. A wrong decision could cost you thousands of extra dollars over the coming year.

While GOP efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have yet to be successful, the present administration has taken steps to make signing up more difficult. Perhaps the biggest hurdle for consumers is the newly shortened open enrollment period, which now runs for just 45 days from November 1 to December 15, 2017 for an effective date of January 1, 2018. By contrast, the open enrollment period in previous years ran for 92 days – from November 1 to January 31 – which gave enrollees more than twice as much time to research plans, make decisions and submit applications.

The new deadline allows ACA open enrollment “to more closely align with Medicare and the private market,” according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). But the abbreviated period will make it harder for some people to sign up on time, which could ultimately reduce the number of people who have coverage.

If you are planning to enroll or renew your ACA plan this year, start reviewing your options as soon as the plans are made public. Many carriers are still waiting for final rate approval from the Illinois Department of Insurance. Therefore, it would be easy to let that December 15 deadline slip past and miss the opportunity to obtain coverage.

If you do nothing and allow yourself to be automatically re-enrolled in your current plan for 2018, you could receive a rude surprise when your premiums increase and it’s too late for you to do anything about it. What’s more, if your current carrier is discontinuing your plan for 2018, you could get automatically redirected into a plan you don’t like as much. And most of these new options will include a new (and yes, higher) range of co-pays and deductibles so consider a healthcare and hospital indemnity insurance supplement to offset those new expenses.

Remember, open enrollment starts on November 1. A good approach is to contact Your Life Security in the next week or two to review your healthcare plans options for individual and small groups, and help complete and submit your application. If you choose not to buy a plan through the Government, then we can find the right private healthcare insurance plan right for your budget.

Don’t “fall” behind. The open enrollment season will be over before the needles fall off the Christmas tree.