What you need to know about health insurance deadline

By March 31 anyone not covered risks paying a fine
Associated Press
Mar 3, 2014

Sick of hearing about the health care law?

Plenty of people have tuned out after all the political jabber and website woes.

But now is the time to tune back in, before it's too late.

The big deadline is coming March 31.

By that day, for the first time, nearly everyone in the United States is required to be signed up for health insurance or risk paying a fine.

Here's what you need to know about this month's open enrollment countdown:

ALREADY COVERED? NO WORRIES

Most people don't need to do anything. Even before the health care law passed in 2010, more than 8 out of 10 U.S. residents had coverage, usually through their workplace plans or the government's Medicare or Medicaid programs. Some have private policies that meet the law's requirements.

If you're already covered that way, you meet the law's requirements.

Since October, about 4 million people have signed up for private plans through the new state and federal marketplaces, the Obama administration says, although it's not clear how many were already insured elsewhere. In addition, many poor adults now have Medicaid coverage for the first time through expansions of the program in about half the states.

President Barack Obama is urging people who have coverage to help any uninsured friends and relatives get signed up.

NEED COVERAGE? IT'S CRUNCH TIME

Chances are you'll hear more reminders about health care this month. The push is on to reach millions of uninsured people.

The administration, insurers, medical associations and nonprofit groups are teaming up with volunteers to get the word out and guide people through the sometimes-rocky enrollment process. They plan special events at colleges, libraries, churches and work sites.

Singing cats, dogs, parrots — even a goldfish — are promoting the message in TV and online spots from the Ad Council.

A big hurdle for the effort: As recently as last month, three-fourths of the uninsured didn't know there was a March 31 deadline, according to polling conducted for the Kaiser Family Foundation. Most said they didn't know much about the law and had an unfavorable opinion of it.

Plus, many worry they won't be able to afford the new plans.

The enrollment campaign is emphasizing that subsidies are available on a sliding scale to help low-income and middle-class households pay for their insurance.

How to enroll? Start at HealthCare.gov or by calling 1-800-318-2596. Residents of states running their own marketplaces will be directed there; people in other states go through the federal exchange.

After March 31, many people won't be able to get subsidized coverage this year, even if they become seriously ill.

The next open enrollment period is set to begin Nov. 15, for coverage in 2015.

DEADLINE DETAILS

There are exceptions. The big one is the Medicaid program for the poor. People who meet the requirements can sign up anytime, with no deadline.

Also, people remain eligible for Medicare whenever they turn 65.

If you are insured now and lose your coverage during the year, by getting laid off from your job, for example, you can use an exchange to find a new policy then. People can sign up outside the open enrollment period in special situations such as having a baby or moving to another state.

You can choose to buy insurance outside the marketplaces and still benefit from consumer protections in the law.

People who do that wouldn't normally be eligible for premium subsidies. But the Obama administration says exceptions will be made for people whose attempts to buy marketplace insurance on time were stymied by continuing problems with some enrollment websites.

MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WON'T GET COVERED

Some 12 million people could gain health coverage this year because of the law, if congressional auditors' predictions don't prove overly optimistic.

Even so, tens of millions still would go without.

That's partly because of immigrants in the country illegally; they aren't eligible for marketplace policies.

Some of the uninsured will not find out about the program in time, will find it confusing or too costly, or will just procrastinate too long. Some feel confident of their health and prefer to risk going uninsured instead of paying premiums. Others are philosophically opposed to participating.

Figuring out just how many of the uninsured got coverage this year won't be easy because the numbers are fuzzy.

The administration's enrollment count includes people who already were insured and used the exchanges to find a better deal, or switched from private insurance to Medicaid, or already qualified for Medicaid before the changes.

Some who sign up will end up uninsured anyway, if they fail to pay their premiums.

The budget experts predict enrollment will grow in future years and by 2017 some 92 percent of legal residents too young for Medicare will have insurance.

But even then, about 30 million people in the United States would go uncovered.

SOME ARE LEFT OUT

A gap in the law means some low-income workers can't get help.

The insurance marketplaces weren't designed to serve people whose low incomes qualify them for expanded Medicaid instead. But some states have declined to expand their Medicaid programs. That means that in those states, many poor people will get left out.

People who fall into the gap won't be penalized for failing to get covered.

Some others are exempt from the insurance mandate, too: American Indians, those with religious objections, prisoners, immigrants in the country illegally, and people considered too poor to buy coverage even with financial assistance.

THE IRS IS WATCHING YOU

The law says people who aren't covered in 2014 are liable for a fine. That amounts to $95 per uninsured person or approximately 1 percent of income, whichever is higher. The penalty goes up in later years.

A year from now, the Internal Revenue Service will ask taxpayers filing their forms for proof of insurance coverage. Insurance companies are supposed to provide that documentation to their customers.

If you owe a penalty for being uninsured, the IRS can withhold it from your refund.

The agency can't put people in jail or garnishee wages to get the money. But it can withhold the penalty from a future year's tax refund.

 

Comments

From the Grave

Huh?

Contango

More insanity from the Inmate-in-Chief.

Pres. Obama needs to do the right thing and wave his 'magic executive order wand,' say “abracadabra” and delay the individual mandate.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Why worry about us peons? We are just expected to do as we are told. After all, it will be OUR fault for not signing up (thus incurring the penalty which is a payment for NO services rendered) for not understanding a massive, convoluted, consistently-changed law that funnels our tax dollars directly into the profits of corporations. Those same private corporations that our public government is threatening their continued ability to exist unless they can coerce private citizens into private contracts.

This seems pretty fair, right? This is good law that works for everyone. Just see above! This is a gleaming crown jewel sitting as an enlightened, third-eye in the crown of (primarily one party in) D.C.!

If this steaming pile of authoritarianism was "healthcare reform" no wonder why there's heel-dragging regarding reforming anything else...

grumpy

Did you hear or read about the new development for our lawmakers in regards to obamaScare? After they retire they and thier staffers can opt out and get their old health care plan and other options not available to the peons. They voted it into existence and don't have to live under it's strictures. Thank your elected officials who voted for this. They won't have to deal with it.

http://thehill.com/blogs/healthw...

This year, members of Congress and thousands of their staffers are finally signing up for health insurance provided by an ObamaCare exchange, fulfilling their commitment to live under the same system that millions of other Americans will use.

But unlike those millions of Americans, members and staff have a way to opt out of ObamaCare — retirement.

Under a rule issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) late last year, members and staff who retire will be able to revert back to health coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). That's the same coverage thousands of other federal workers can use when they retire.

The FEHBP lets government retirees choose from a range of options, including health savings accounts, PPOs or HMOs. And none of it has anything to do with ObamaCare.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Yeah I read that. Tried to find some coverage on that from HuffPo, too, but didn't see it there. The whole thing continues to be one big corporatism/authoritarian joke which does little for those it was supposed to help. The one or two gems that can be plucked from it are all that those who wholeheartedly support this law as God's gift seem to focus on instead of the rest of the crap that surrounds it and could be modified.

Ironic when selfish desires/holdouts are held over a supposedly selfless law. But the ACA has too many ancient egos riding on the line to dare do anything about/to it. Politicians continue to paint as as ignorant savages who can't help ourselves and thus need more law inflicted upon us since our primitive brains can only understand pain and praise.

If you listen to some of the things they say you have to wonder...how did we live prior to the ACA? In those ancient times pre-2010, you know in our infancy as a civil society? We must have roamed in healthcare gangs beating up other people for their insurance, ravaging hospital-colonies and pillaging them for their supplies.

Yet here we are now on the precipice of the Ivory Tower. Our ticket-in-hand to scale the winding stairs to be more like our creators who gave us life, intelligence, and culture.

BabyMomma

Can't afford insurance? Well here's Obamacare, no new jobs or anything to help you make more money, but now if you can't afford insurance,you owe us money. It's not a tax, it's a fine? Obama is Hitler, plain and simple.

anthras

The comments for this article will be for Obamacare this week next week it will most likely change as Obamacare changes,

I do run a business and do not have an excess amount of time to research so I was hoping that some persons could provide me with answers to my questions.

1. How many pages were there when congress passed the original Obamacare and how many pages now ?

2. If there are new rules and regulations the bill would then be different than what congress passed ergo did congress approve all of the revisions?

3. How many people signed up for Obamacare as of March 1st.?

4. Of the persons that have signed up how many actually paid and have a valid policy?

5. Of those paid with a policy will it cover their current doctors?

6. How many that signed up went into medicaid paid for by the tax payers?

7. How many persons were cancelled and lost coverage because of Obamacare and would it be more or less than the persons that have obtained an actual policy via Obamacare?

Are there any official figures or at least estimates of how many persons that were working full time with health care that are now working part time without healthcare?

Well unlike some posters I do need to go to work now and would really appreciate and sincerely thank anyone that answers some of the things that I am curious about.

Stop It

The comment section is not your personal search engine. Do it yourself.

"Well unlike some posters I do need to go to work now..."
Condescending prick.

rbenn

I will have a big mac and fries please, and no I don't want an apple pie with that.

thinkagain

Μην κρίνεις εξ ιδίων τα αλλότρια

anthras

I do not judge anyone i leave that to God.

thinkagain

Didn't say you did. It was directed at Stop It.

anthras

stop it,

I am extremely sorry if I may have offended anyone and I do sincerely apologize. Although I do have an idea what the answers are and I was not really looking for the answers to my questions rather hoping to see what some Obamacare supporters may have to say about some of my questions. I guess I did use poor judgment and again I am extremely sorry and my apology is sincere.

Stop It

Apology accepted, anthras. I work a home biz. I can be on here any time of the day or night as it suits me. There are some who are retired as well. It may seem because of timestamps that we are always here. This world we live in is not always a "commute to work and physically be there" scenario.

Darwin's choice

Hit a nerve, stop it?

His comments were probably for one of the buttkissing obamabots, coasterfail, big dog, and deertracker. All three of whom are probably paid posters here, at least judging by their assinine, every-article-about-obama-commenting! You want to call someone a condescending prick for being truthful? You should look in the mirror before calling someone a prick, just saying!

Stop It

Darwin, it was put to me like this. If one person calls me an a$$whole, no biggie. If 20 people are calling me the same, then it's time to look in the mirror. It seemed telling that anthras could 'use' anyone as a search engine because he had to physically be at work. Using a search engine is not that difficult. He could have just typed those questions into his pref. of engines. The 'nerve that was hit' was one of equality, not superiority.

EdO's

What?

SamAdams

Obamacare = ObamaFAIL. Again.

techie823's picture
techie823

Ohio Health Care Amendment, Issue 3

SamAdams

Yes, you're right. But I've been unable to find any updates. I know it passed in all 88 counties. But I don't see confirmation that it's in effect, or will go into effect. Are you aware of any written summaries that are up to date in the issue?

grumpy

Another delay in obamaScare, this time for a good reason. so dims won't lose the Senate. This is how this administration handles healthcare policy... by trying to further their parties politics, not following the laws they already passed, but what is best for their party. Why even take laws and the country into consideration?

http://thehill.com/blogs/healthw...

Darwin's choice

No surprise! The fudge-packer in chief has to take care of his bootlickers!

Coasterfailure, big dog, what do you say?

Whats the matter, got glue-mouth from eating fudge?