Open enrollment underway, government offering help with student loans

By Sofia Ojeda - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - Open enrollment is getting underway, time to review your health and benefits coverage and decide what changes to make.

Today U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Sylvia Burwell will be in Houston to discuss enrollment efforts with community leaders.
The secretary says the Houston-area is one of the department's top five target areas for enrollment during the enrollment period, which starts November 1.

The government is also offering a plan to help with student loans, but is it good for consumers?
Remember if you opt out of health insurance, penalties are going up dramatically.

Student debt is now a staggering $1.3 trillion, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says one in four borrowers is either behind in their payments or in default.

To help, THE department of education could be making some changes to the  "PAY AS YOU EARN" Program.

One change would limit how much interest you would pay – if the loan amount was changed based on your income.

Another possible change would help married couples who declare financial hardship. In that case, the government would look at the income of both spouses when making a decision, not just the person who holds the loan.

And with health insurance coverage, it is open enrollment season.

Medicare open enrollment runs through December 7.  The marketplace opens November 1.

But to make sure your coverage begins January 1st, enroll or make changes by December 15.

And if you don't qualify for a waiver, penalties for not having health coverage jump dramatically as of January 1.

If your income is under $80,000.00 you will be fined $695.00 per adult.

With student loans the Department of Education is also working on getting the IRS to automatically share information, so you won't need to resubmit your income statements every year.

To learn about options for your student loan, check out www.consumerfinance.gov  and search "paying for college."

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