Questions About the ACA: What Happens to People Who Do Not Sign Up by March 31st

Health Care Reform
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Under the original terms of the The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Obamacare, Americans have until March 31, 2014 to sign up for a health insurance plan. There have been a few changes you may not know about.Health Care Reform Deadline

Deadline Rules

Originally, if you couldn’t sign up for health insurance through the health exchanges by March 31st, you would have to wait until November 15, 2014 to apply for coverage starting January 2015 and pay a penalty when filing 2014’s tax return next year.

The change: Although this deadline still exists, the White House is allowing Americans to apply for an “in-line” extension. Many Americans have had difficulty enrolling on HealthCare.gov and through the federal call centers. As a result, the Obama administration has agreed to institute an honor system. Americans who sign up for the marketplace on HealthCare.gov can check a box to ask for an extension because they tried but were unable to enroll in a health insurance plan. The extended period is expected to last until around April 15th.

Special Exceptions

Originally, if you experienced a major life event, such as a new child, illness, job loss, divorce/marriage or health coverage loss because of a qualifying life event, you could get a special enrollment extension. This extension gives you up to 60 days after the event to apply for coverage through the federal marketplace after the March 31st deadline.

The change: Although this original exception still applies, you can also get a special extension to the “in-line” extension if you have limited Internet skill and must enroll via United States postal mail. If you send in a paper application by April 7th, you have until April 30th to set up a health insurance plan with starting coverage beginning May 1st. You must also pay your first premium by that time.

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Extra Notes

As of March 26th, only those with qualifying life events will be able to use special extensions after mid-April. Additionally, deadlines and penalties do not apply to Americans who qualify for and enroll in Medicaid or similar income-based programs.

If you haven’t applied for a health insurance plan yet through the federal marketplace, the White House recommends not waiting until the last minute to enroll or ask for an extension. An increase in daily enrollments is expected now through March 31st.

About the author…

Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from West Jordan, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing about healthcare and spending time with her dog, Max. Information credited to Blue Mountain Home Health Care in Pottsville, PA.

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