After all the waiting and all the fuss, there’s now less than a week to go until Obamacare’s big deadline. March 31 is the last day to sign up for health care coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or face a penalty (or tax) under the law.
Here’s what to know about the deadline.
Though many aspects of the law have been killed, changed or delayed, the administration has insisted the March 31 deadline would not be moved.
However, for some Americans that doesn’t hold true.
On Wednesday, the administration announced it will grant extra time to consumers to complete commercial coverage applications in the states where it runs the public exchanges.
HHS officials said they aren’t officially changing the March 31 individual qualified health plan enrollment period for everyone, but they’ll make a special enrollment period available to consumers who start the individual plan application process by March 31 but failed to complete it.
Also this month, the Obama administration said enrollees in the federal Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan will have another month to stay there while they search for coverage. Sick patients on the temporary health plan now can buy an additional month of PCIP coverage through April 30.
The PCIP program was due to end on March 31, but the extension was granted amid concerns that some of the nation’s sickliest patients won’t be able to find and buy health coverage ahead of the deadline.
“As part of our continuing effort to help smooth consumers’ transition into Marketplace coverage, we are allowing those covered by PCIP additional time to shop for new coverage while they receive the ongoing care and treatment they need,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokesman Aaron Albright said in a statement.
Enrollment isn’t completely over
Because of both the extensions, and other events, enrollment won’t be completely over on March 31.
The open enrollment system applies only to consumers buying individual qualified health plan coverage through an exchange. Consumers can get a “special enrollment period” after March 31 by showing that they have undergone a major life change, such as the loss of a job, or that they qualify for a hardship exemption from the usual open enrollment period rules.
Meanwhile, some brokers anticipate that the ‘special’ medical market could be a big one for them.
Under PPACA, virtually all Americans must buy health insurance or pay a penalty.
Some Americans are exempt. These include those in prison, not legally in the United States, in a health care sharing ministry or recognized religious sect that objects to health insurance, members of a federally recognized Indian tribe, or if the cost of coverage would exceed 8 percent of a consumer’s household income. Consumers whose previous policy was canceled because of PPACA requirements are also exempt from the penalty for one year.
For the rest of us, the penalty this year is the greater of either $95 or up to 1 percent of the portion of the person’s modified adjusted gross income that exceeds $10,150, which is the level that requires you to file a tax return. That rises to $695, or 2.5 percent of income, by 2016.
However that simple $95 fine might be much more for some. For example, if a couple has two children, files taxes jointly and is uninsured, the penalty will be at least $285 in 2014.
Subsidies under the law are meant to make health care coverage under the law more affordable. Premium tax credits for 2014 plans were designed to lower premium costs for people with household incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the 2013 federal poverty level ($11,490 to $45,960 per year for an individual).