New Jersey residents who don't have health insurance for 2021 have until Dec. 31 to get coverage starting Jan. 1 under the Garden State's health insurance marketplace.

That cutoff is later than the deadline that residents have seen offered by the federal government in past years, now that the state's running its own shop for benefits. In fact, the open enrollment period in New Jersey truly runs until Jan. 31, for those needing coverage starting in February.

New Jersey and several other states are part of a national campaign pushing for uninsured and underinsured Americans to shop for health coverage in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think they will be happily surprised to see the amount of financial aid that is available to them this year," Marlene Caride, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, told Townsquare Media News.

Get Covered New Jersey, a one-stop shop for residents who do not receive health insurance through their employer or other program, is expected to offer financial help for nearly eight in 10 people purchasing coverage for 2021. New Jersey is offering state subsidies on top of financial help from the federal government, to individuals whose annual income is under 400% of the federal poverty level.

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"We created Get Covered New Jersey precisely so we can provide our residents with more access to health care," Gov. Phil Murphy said in a press release about the national Get Covered 2021 campaign. "As part of this initiative, we also want New Jerseyans who lack coverage to know that the state's health insurance marketplace offers high-quality, affordable plan options and more financial help this year than ever before."

Get Covered New Jersey launched in October to allow residents to browse health plans, compare prices and see if they qualify for financial help. The open enrollment period began Nov. 1. Depending on their income, DOBI noted, some consumers may qualify for low-cost or free coverage from NJ FamilyCare.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 8% of New Jerseyans were uninsured in 2019. With more than 1.8 million unemployment claims filed in New Jersey since mid-March, the share of state residents needing to seek coverage through the government-run marketplace may be greater this year.

"COVID plays into this," Caride said. "You have, unfortunately, individuals who have lost their jobs, and with that they might have lost their insurance coverage."

Because New Jersey has its own marketplace, Caride added, the state has the option to launch a special enrollment period down the line should the pandemic result in more economic troubles for residents.

The state is investing $3.5 million in trained "navigators" to assist residents with their questions related to health care plans. More than a dozen organizations throughout New Jersey can help residents enroll in coverage.

New Jersey residents who've purchased insurance through HealthCare.gov must use New Jersey's marketplace for 2021 coverage.

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