Feds announce deadline extensions for some aspects of Affordable Care Act

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 3/10/2014

The White House announced two additional deadline extensions for the Affordable Care Act, but also confirmed one major deadline will not change.

The first deadline extension will allow people with health insurance plans that don’t comply with Affordable Care Act standards to keep them through October 2017 if their states allow it. That is according to a final ruling from the Health and Human Services Department’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

In addition, the deadline for next year’s open enrollment period has been extended one month to Feb. 15, 2015.

Rick Welsh, president of Welsh and Associates, a Kansas City-based health care and insurance consulting business that works with OOIDA’s Medical Benefits Department, said perhaps the most important deadline-related news for the new health care law is that this year’s open enrollment deadline of March 31 is not changing.

“You need to get enrolled by March 31,” Welsh said. “That’s still the deadline and they confirmed it (Thursday) that is still the date. They’ve announced extensions for next year, but March 31 is still the drop dead date for 2014.”

If you are not already enrolled in a public or private health care plan or do not have health insurance through an employer-provided plan, you must be enrolled in a qualified health care plan by the deadline, or possibly pay a tax penalty.

Welsh said the deadline extension on non-compliant plans applies to individuals who have their own plans that don’t include the federally mandated Essential Health Benefits.

“The deadline extension applies to what a lot of people refer to as 'bare-bones' plans that don’t have all the bells and whistles that ACA plans offer,” Welsh said.

If you’re still without insurance once the open enrollment period ends on March 31, you can only purchase insurance by having a qualifying event, such as loss of job, marriage, divorce or birth. You can also qualify by moving from one state to another.

The penalty for not having insurance in 2014 is $95 per person ($47.50 per child under 18), or 1 percent of your yearly household income, whichever is greater. Unless your yearly household income is less than $9,500, you can expect to pay much more than $95 in tax penalties.

The penalty for being without insurance is calculated on a monthly basis. So if you have a qualifying event and get insurance later in the year and are without insurance for only six months, for example, you will owe half of the penalty.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has launched an online marketplace offering health insurance policies that meet the Essential Health Benefits criteria of the ACA.

The OOIDA Members Healthcare Exchange is available in a six-state pilot program covering Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Texas.

The Association has set up a web portal to get online quotes on the OOIDA website. Anybody can access the site for a quote on a policy, but you have to be an OOIDA member to purchase the plans. It can be accessed under the Benefits and Services section. Members may also call the Medical Benefits Department for more information or to purchase an ACA-compliant plan.

“Our phones are busy from first thing in the morning until we turn out the lights in the evening,” Welsh said. “If you need to enroll for this year, you need to call in early. Don’t wait until the last week because you probably won’t be able to get through.”

The portal works much like other online insurance shopping experiences. The customer enters his or her contact information and ZIP code, as well as age and gender. Then the software provides a range of plans available in that area. Plans can be filtered by coverage level (bronze, silver, gold or platinum) as well as by deductible or premium costs, office copays and other factors.

While the exchange is set up for six states, members from most other states can still call and get quotes for private insurance policies through OOIDA partners. New York and New Jersey are two states where residents have no choice but to go through the state or federal exchange. Private exchanges are not authorized under those states’ laws.

Customers who purchase health insurance through a private exchange such as OOIDA’s are not eligible for federal tax subsidies. In order to qualify for the subsidies, insurance must be purchased through state or federal exchanges. Furthermore, those applying for subsidies must fall between 133 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level in order to qualify.

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