SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A Dakotas nonprofit is urging consumers who buy health insurance on their own to sign up early through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

The open enrollment period for 2018 health coverage began Wednesday and runs until Dec. 15, 2017, a sign-up period six weeks shorter than last year's.

Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas CEO Shelly Ten Napel says community health centers and others are working hard to inform people that coverage and financial help are available.

She says people who plan to renew or enroll in a health plan should get prepared and sign up early to ensure coverage.

The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation says for the 2017 open enrollment period, over 21,000 people in North Dakota and more than 29,000 people in South Dakota selected a marketplace plan.

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