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What happens if I miss the Dec. 23 deadline for getting insurance by Jan. 1?

Today’s the last day you can enroll in health insurance if you want coverage to start on Jan. 1. If you can’t or aren’t ready to enroll by midnight today, you still have some options, and won't necessarily have to pay a fine. Here's what you need to know.

You won't have to pay a fine as long as you enroll by March 31. But the sooner you enroll, the sooner your coverage will starts. If you enroll in a health plan between Dec. 24 and Jan. 15, your coverage will begin Feb. 1.If you enroll between Jan. 16 and Feb. 15, coverage will begin March 1. If you wait till after Feb. 15, coverage won't start until April 1 at the earliest. If you don't have insurance now, that's a long time to go without coverage.

Remember, for 2014 the penalty is $95 per person or $285 per family, or 1 percent of your household income, whichever is higher. It will be collected when you file your 2014 tax return in 2015.

UPDATE: It emerged this afternoon that the administration has quietly extended the deadline to midnight on Christmas Eve, but our advice is not to push the time envelope. Enrollment can take a while, especially if you have a large household with multiple income streams.

Got a question for our health insurance expert? Ask it here; be sure to include the state you live in. And if you can't get enough health insurance news here, follow me on Twitter @NancyMetcalf.

Health reform countdown: We are doing an article a day on the new health care law until Jan. 1, 2014, when it takes full effect. (Read the previous posts in the series.) To get health insurance advice tailored to your situation, use our Health Law Helper, below.

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