Time is running out for individuals who want to enroll in an Obamacare plan. Enrollment so far has been lagging, and it will be interesting to see if people are not interested in enrolling or if there is not enough information available. In any event, if someone does not have coverage by March 31 they will be required to pay a tax for not having heatlh insurance. In order to avoid inadvertently being left out in the cold, here are some dates to be aware of.
February 15, 2014
Deadline for March 1 Enrollment
As a general rule, an individual must be signed up by the 15th of a month in order to have coverage start on the 1st of the following month. Therefore, if you need coverage on March 1, you need to have signed up for an exchange plan by February 15. Even if you miss this deadline by 1 day, you will most likely have to wait until April 1 to have health insurance.
Technically, since enrollment after February 15 would result in coverage that would not begin until April, the individual would be subject to the penalty for not having coverage if he or she was without coverage since January 1 (i.e. 3 consecutive months). However, the federal government has said that as long as someone enrolls during the Open Enrollment period (through March 31) that person will not have the penalty applied. Be aware that a hardship waiver may be required when filing 2014 taxes.
March 15, 2014
Deadline for April 1 Enrollment
As mentioned above, if you want coverage by April 1, 2014, you must be enrolled by March 15. If you enroll between March 16 and March 31, you will still be in the Open Enrollment timeframe, but now you have pushed your effective date of coverage back to May 1. And you’ll probably be required to complete a hardship waiver at tax time.
March 31, 2014
Last Day of Open Enrollment
In order to completely avoid a penalty for not having health insurance you must have your enrollment completed by March 31, 2014. The first day of coverage will be May 1.
Do Not Wait
If you are wanting to enroll in an exchange plan, do not wait until the last minute to complete your enrollment. While the marketplace websites are vastly improved over what was rolled out in October, there is no guarantee that you will not experience technical difficulties when trying to sign up.
Also, if you want the coverage, why wait? Get signed up and covered as soon as possible.