Insurance deadline looms
March 31 deadline to apply for insurance coverage under Affordable Care Act
Anyone who needs health insurance should be well aware of this date: March 31, 2014.
That is the deadline to apply for insurance coverage starting April 1.
Under the federal Affordable Care Act — better known as Obamacare — everyone in the U.S. is required to have health insurance.
Those who don’t will be penalized on next year’s taxes — either $95 per person or 1 percent of your gross income.
After March 31, the open enrollment period closes and health insurance can not be purchased until enrollment opens again Oct. 15.
“If you procrastinate, you have to wait,” said Matthew Pidcock of Valley Insurance in La Grande.
There are a few exceptions to this deadline known as “life qualifying events,” including losing a job, having a baby and moving to a different state.
There are two ways to buy health insurance — either “inside the exchange or outside the exchange,” said Nelson Clarke of Clarke and Clarke Insurance in Baker City.
“Inside the exchange” means Cover Oregon, a marketplace where consumers can compare different insurance plans. This is also the avenue to determine whether you’re eligible for subsidized programs such as the Oregon Health Plan or Healthy Kids.
But here’s the catch — you don’t want to wait until March 31 to apply through Cover Oregon because it takes some time for applications to be processed.
“We had clients who applied in November who still haven’t heard anything,” Pidcock said. “It’s just not working yet.”
“It” is the website for Cover Oregon — www.coveroregon.com — which has been unable to process applications online. Most people have submitted paper applications.
Pidcock’s advice is to apply as soon as possible to ensure meeting the March 31 deadline.
The process starts with filling out an application, which determines eligibility for tax credits that reduce the monthly premium (eligibility is based mostly on income).
After receiving the packet, individuals can then go to Cover Oregon and choose an insurance plan. If eligible for tax credits, these can be applied right away — either all or a portion — or you can claim the credits when completing taxes in 2014.
Pidcock says Valley Insurance has helped more than 550 clients sign up through Cover Oregon.
Those who don’t qualify for tax credits can buy insurance outside the exchange.
This avenue is quite a bit quicker.
“If we bypass Cover Oregon, we can get it the day before (the deadline),” Pidcock said.
As for the penalty for those who don’t get insurance, he warns of a particular demographic — college students who are claimed as dependents on their parents’ taxes but are not on their parents’ insurance. If a student doesn’t get their own insurance, his or her parents will be penalized next year.
And that penalty will increase every year someone neglects to have health insurance.