March 31, 2014 is the last day to enroll in a marketplace plan under the Affordable Care Act without suffering a fine. The penalty is $95 or 1% of your income, whichever is greater, and will continue to increase each consecutive year.
“The Obama administration announced Monday that more than 5 million people have signed up for new insurance plans under the health-care law, suggesting new momentum as the March 31 deadline for coverage this year approaches.” And “About 800,000 people have selected health plans on the state and federal insurance marketplaces this month.” (The Washington Post)
Once the initial enrollment period has ended, the next open enrollment period won’t be until October, 15, 2014-December 7, 2014. People who have a life-changing event occur, such as moving to a new state, a new baby, death of a spouse, or loss of a job will be able to sign up outside of the open enrollment period. This is considered a special enrollment period and lasts for 60 days. Once a health plan is selected, you cannot switch to a different one until the next open enrollment period.
If the cost of buying health coverage exceeds 8 % of your household income, you’ll be able to get an exemption from the annual penalty, but you’ll remain uninsured. However, you may qualify for a subsidy and/Medicare.
Legal residents of California who don’t have access to affordable health insurance through their employer or another government program can purchase health coverage through Covered California. Small businesses with less than 50 full-time employees can also purchase insurance through Covered California. Covered California is a state-designed program where you can purchase affordable health insurance and possibly receive financial assistance in order to pay for coverage.
To learn more about Covered California and find out right away whether or not you qualify for financial assistance, we’ve added a short video onto the Home page of our website.
Please leave any questions you may have in the Comments section below.
Tiffany Buczek is a freelance writer and licensed esthetician living in Southern CA.