There is a flurry of deadlines approaching as December draws to a close, and they have nothing to do with holiday shopping. Several important dates for the Affordable Care Act are near, but with all of the recent changes, confusion may be taking precedent over knowing when to sign up or pay premiums.
The Department of Health and Human Services (or, HHS) announced tweaks to the Obamacare calendar last week. Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, worried about how this would impact individuals seeking insurance.
“With only weeks to go before coverage begins, continued changes to the rules and guidance could exacerbate the challenges associated with helping consumers through the enrollment process,” Ignagni said in a statement, “Health plans will continue to do everything they can to protect consumers from potential coverage disruptions caused by the ongoing technical problems with Healthcare.gov.” To set the dates straight, here are the deadlines for signing up for health insurance as they currently stand.
For individuals who want coverage by January 1, they need to adhere to two deadlines. First, they have to enroll by December 23. This is one of the changes HHS made last week; the original deadline was December 15.
Second, they will need to pay their premium. HHS says this must to happen on, or before, December 31. Again, that is a new date; previously, insurance companies set the cutoff date for payment and coverage. Enrolling by December 23, and paying by the 31, ensures coverage that starts January 1, but HHS is pushing for insurance companies to have flexibility with consumers regarding the dates.
HHS is urging insurers to let people begin their coverage, even if they cannot pay until early January. For instance, HHS wants insurers to give a start date of January 1 to a person who signed up by December 23, but was unable to make the first payment deadline. Similarly, HHS is encouraging flexibility when people select a plan early on in the new year.
If a person were to choose a plan on January 5, and pay, HHS wants to see insurance companies issue a retroactive start date of January 1, allowing that individual to qualify for the advance premium tax credit. All of that is for coverage that begins with the new year. If people are seeking to avoid the penalty, but do not need insurance to start on January 1, there is a different set of dates.
People who do not have an insurance plan by March 31, 2014 will be assessed a fee. The amount required is the higher of two figures. The baseline penalty is $95 for an uninsured adult; $47.50 per child. However, if 1 percent of a person’s income exceeds the set-dollar amount, they will be required to pay that instead. Every year a person goes without insurance, the fee increases.
Enrolling in a plan by March 31 avoids this penalty for the uninsured. People with pre-existing conditions, who had coverage through the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, have an extra month to select a plan if they have not already done so. Instead of their program ending on the first of the year, it will now last through January 2014.
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