As deadline looms, acquiring insurance coverage is becoming more important
The time is coming when the open enrollment period for insurance exchanges in the U.S. will no longer accept new enrollees. The open enrollment period ends on March 31 and many people throughout the country have begun scrambling to enroll for coverage through both state-run and federal exchanges before then. Exchanges offer services that cannot be found in the private market, such as offering access to subsidies from the federal government that are meant to offset, if not eliminate, the cost of insurance coverage.
Exchanges are designed to provide consumers with access to affordable policies. These policies typically offer more coverage benefits than those that can be found in the private market. Insurers participating in exchanges must adhere to standards regarding the type of coverage they can provide and policies they sell are required by federal law to provide benefits for preventative services and other such essential health benefits. In some cases, the policies available through exchanges can be quite costly due to the benefits they provide, but government subsidies can help mitigate these costs.
Uninsured face federal penalties if they continue to refuse to purchase insurance coverage
After March 31, those without health insurance coverage will face penalties levied against them by the federal government. These penalties account to 1% of a household’s annual income or $95 per uninsured person in a household annually, whichever is higher. The penalty is calculated based upon the uninsured person’s income. Those with an annual income of below $19,650 will only have to pay the $95 penalty every year they go without insurance coverage. Those that fall far enough below the federally established poverty level could avoid being targeted by the penalty altogether so as to avoid further financial strain. While the penalties officially became active on January 1, 2014, there is a three month grace period that is meant to allow people a chance to enroll for coverage through insurance exchanges.
Once the open enrollment period ends, consumers may still find health insurance coverage through the private market. These people will not be able to take advantage of services offered through exchanges, however. These services include access to federal subsidies and the assistance of insurance navigators. Navigators are meant to help consumers find the best insurance policies for their situations through exchanges. Navigators can also make applying for federal financial aid easier.