It’s signup time for those who want to buy 2018 health insurance through the federal market exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act.

The deadline is Dec. 15, and help is available to work through the process. The open-enrollment period is shorter than it was last year – six weeks instead of three months – so advocates suggest making an appointment right away if you want free help from a health care navigator.

The CoverKC Coalition lists dozens of organizations across the metro area with federal navigators and certified application counselors – but only one in Eastern Jackson County. It’s Swope Health Services at 11320 E. Truman Road in Independence. Call 816-599-5207 to make an appointment.

You can also dial 211 to reach the United Way of Greater Kansas City, which can direct you to other places with navigators and counselors.

Under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, those who don’t have health insurance through work or through a government agency can buy it through Healthcare.gov. Advocates point out that the ACA prohibits insurance carriers from turning people down because of existing medical conditions. The law does require that everyone, with few exceptions, have insurance or face a fine.

The plans offered through the exchange change from year to year. In Jackson County for 2018, Cigna and Centene are selling plans. Centene’s are Ambetter plans from Home State Health.

Those applying for coverage will need several things:

• Your healthcare.gov account user name and password.

• Social Security numbers for everyone in your household.

• Dates of birth for everyone to be covered.

• Names of doctors as well as current prescriptions, including dosage amounts.

• Proof of immigration status if applicable.

• Information about health insurance that you or others in your family can get through work.

• Recent pay stubs for those in the household who work, or a 2016 federal income tax return for those who are self-employed.