Today — Monday, March 31 — is the last day to sign up for 2014 health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
While the March 31 deadline applies to the whole country, people who started to sign up but have been unable to finish the process due to technical difficulties will be able to get an extension in some states.
How To Sign Up Today
You can check and see how much coverage might cost you beforehand. All plans cover basic health services, including preventative care, mental health, emergency room visits, maternity care, lab testing, and more.
If You Miss The Deadline
Residents of the 36 states that use the federal government exchange will have until mid-April to apply for an extension, which will grant them a special enrollment period of approximately 60 days to choose a plan. In order to get the extension, people will have to check a box that says they tried to enroll before the deadline.
Some other states that have had technical issues — including Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, and Oregon — have offered similar extensions, though in some cases, their requirements for showing an earlier attempt to enroll could be different.
After mid-April, some people will still be eligible for extensions that allow them to sign up for health coverage that will start this year. These exceptions will be granted to those who couldn't enroll because they were sick, in a natural disaster, or experiencing ongoing site errors.
Additionally, people who experience a major life change can apply for an enrollment period to obtain insurance after the deadline. Some of these life events include getting married, having or adopting a child, losing a job that provided health insurance, or moving to a new area with different coverage options.
If none of these exemptions apply to you and you are uninsured after the March 31 deadline, you may have to pay a penalty.
Who Doesn't Have To Pay The Penalty
If the cheapest insurance plan available to you would cost you more than 8% of your income, then you don't have to pay the fine.
People also don't have to buy coverage and won't pay a fine if they don't earn enough money to file a tax return or are part of a religious sect that objects to insurance. There are a few other people that are exempt, listed here, along with 14 factors that qualify people for "hardship exemptions" from paying a fine.
Some of those hardship exemptions are very specific, such as receiving a shut-off notice from a utility company or having had medical expenses you had trouble paying in the last two years.
The final exemption is fairly broad however, and states "you experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance." David Howard, a professor at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, told Modern Healthcare that this most likely means that "basically anyone who wants to be able to claim a hardship exemption will probably be able to."
Anyone who is uninsured in 2014 and doesn't qualify for an exemption will have to pay either $95 or 1% of their income, whichever is greater, when they file taxes next year.
The next chance to sign up for health insurance will be Nov. 15, 2014 — and that coverage won't start until 2015.
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