HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania residents have until next week to enroll in a plan through the state’s health-insurance marketplace, Pennie.

Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, the marketplace extended its COVID-19 special enrollment period for anyone who is uninsured or underinsured to August 15.

The federal stimulus package also eliminated the cap to get financial assistance for their insurance. Previously, under the Affordable Care Act, residents only were eligible for help if they made less than 400% of the federal poverty level.

Joanne Grossi, Pennsylvania state president of AARP, said because the financial support lasts through 2022, it will make affordable insurance much more accessible.

“The Pennsylvania Insurance Department is telling us right now that 72% of the people enrolled in the marketplace are paying $50 a month or less for their premiums, and 50% are only paying $1 a month or less for their premiums,” Grossi reported. “So this is a really important time to make sure you enroll in the marketplace.”

Nearly 700,000 people in Pennsylvania do not have health insurance.

Grossi pointed out so far, it appears the special enrollment period is a one-time offer. However, if at any point during the year an individual has a so-called “qualifying life event,” they would be able to get coverage through the marketplace, outside of open enrollment. These events include losing income, losing health coverage, getting married, having a child, getting divorced, and more.

Grossi emphasized trained counselors are available to help for people who may need assistance in finding a plan that’s right for them.

“This is free assistance for you, people on the other end of the phone or in person or on the other end of the computer who can give you free, neutral advice,” Grossi explained. “Because again, you want to know if your doctor is in network, what amount of money can you afford for a premium. It’s very complicated.”

Pennie’s open-enrollment period runs annually from Nov. 1 to Jan. 15.

Emily Scott