Last day to enroll in Affordable Care Act, unless you've already started the process

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 3/31/2014

The deadline for enrolling in a qualified health care plan under the Affordable Care Act is Monday, March 31, for most people.

However, the Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that those who have attempted to sign up for coverage through either a state or federally administered insurance exchange may have extra time to finish their enrollment. The extension does not apply to private insurance exchanges.

Just how much extra time has not been officially made clear, and those individuals who request an extension through will still need to complete the enrollment process in order to get coverage. In order to get an extension, the applicant must check a box on the website, and also provide an explanation for why an extension is necessary.

Earlier this month, The White House announced two additional deadline extensions:

The first extension allows 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. The second extension extends the open enrollment period for next year 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 the enrollment extension is “for those already in line.”

“That’s all they’ve said, that they’re going to grant (individuals) more time,” he said. “If you’re in line, they’re going to give you a little more time to complete it.”

President Obama announced Thursday that enrollment in the ACA reached 6 million, although that figure includes only the number of individuals who have signed up for coverage, and not the number who have paid for it yet.

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.

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.

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