The deadline has passed for uninsured Americans to enroll in qualified healthcare plans and avoid a government penalty.
Well, sort of.
The deadline for the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is a moving target that really doesn’t mean anything until March 31. That’s the last day that you can enroll in a government-approved program and not have to pay the late fees: $95 per adult and $47.50 per child in each household or 1 percent of your annual income, whichever is greater.
Confused? So is nearly all of America.
Sign-Up Still Available
The Obamacare rollout has been indecisive, ineffective and inconsequential. It appears the current administration is simply winging it by implementing their landmark healthcare program.
The original sign-up deadline of Dec. 15 was postponed to Dec. 23, and then quietly rolled over to Dec. 24. But don’t worry if millions of other last-minute shoppers trying to sign up interrupted your application on Christmas Eve. The deadline will flex further, according to Julie Bataille, a spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which runs the site where you sign up.
“If you have trouble due to high demand, we will make sure we help you get signed up,” Bataille said in a statement.
It is the latest in a series of missteps by an administration still trying to figure out what exactly it’s going to require from Americans for insurance purposes and when exactly it will start charging you a fee if you don’t have it.
Pay Your Premiums
If you have signed up, here are a few things you should check to ensure you are indeed covered if you have to fill a prescription or visit a doctor starting Jan. 1.
- Signing up doesn’t mean anything until you pay your first premium. Depending on where you live, and the company you signed up with, the deadline to make payments could be Jan. 6, 7, 10 or 15. If you haven’t made a payment, you aren’t covered.
- If you did sign up and did pay a premium, call the company you’re with and make sure the paperwork has arrived and is verified. If not, you won’t be covered.
- Getting a bill for your premiums is actually a good thing. It means the paperwork went through the right channels. Pay the bill and you should be good to go.
Fee: 1 Percent of Income or $95
If you haven’t signed up yet, here are some highlights from the many things that could change between now and when you do.
- If you don’t sign up for a health plan, you will have to pay all your own medical bills, even catastrophic ones that could lead to bankruptcy.
- If you don’t sign up, you will incur a government fee that acts suspiciously like a tax or fine. The fee for 2014 is either 1 percent of your income or $95 per adult and $47.50 per child in your household — whichever is higher. The maximum penalty is $285 per family.
- In 2015, the fee will rise to 2 percent of income or $325 per person, and rise again in 2016 to 2.5 percent of income or $695 per adult. The fee for children always half of what it costs for adults.
- If you are uninsured for part of the year, 1/12th of the penalty applies for every month you’re uninsured, but if you’re uninsured for less than three months, you don’t have to make a payment.
Of course, if you enroll by Mar. 31 all fees and missed deadlines are forgiven — assuming the administration or Congress doesn’t change anything else between now and then.
Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it in 2012, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering the high finance world of college and professional sports for major publications, including the Associated Press, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. His interest in sports has waned some, but he is as passionate as ever about not reaching for his wallet. Bill can be reached at [email protected].