Open enrollment closes Feb. 15 for health care

Those who don’t get signed up for health insurance coverage under the open enrollment mandate of the Affordable Care Act by Thursday still have a month to get health insurance for 2015, but once the final deadline of Feb. 15 passes, options for avoiding the penalty of missing the deadline are few.

Those who sign up on or before Thursday during the open enrollment period for 2015 will have insurance coverage effective on Feb. 1, according to Cindy Hermes, health care consumer ombudsman and director of public outreach with the Kansas Insurance Department. Insurance coverage can be purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace or through individual insurance agents, it was reported.

The open enrollment period for this year ends on Feb. 15, and those who sign up for insurance coverage between Friday and that date will have coverage effective March 1. The thing to remember, Hermes said, is not to put it off until after Feb. 15.

“If you don’t get insurance through the Marketplace or through your employer, or if you have a life event — divorce, marriage, birth — you’re not going to be able to purchase insurance in July or anytime after Feb. 15 through the end of the year,” she said. “If you’re putting it off, you can put it off. But you won’t have any insurance.”

The ACA individual mandate requires that most Americans obtain health insurance for the year or pay a tax penalty. For those who don’t get coverage, the penalty for not having coverage will be paid on their federal income tax returns based on their modified adjusted gross income for each full month they or a family member doesn’t have health insurance or an exemption.

That penalty increases each year, it was reported. In 2014, those who went without coverage were charged $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, up to $285 for a family, or 1 percent of their household income above the tax return filing threshold for their filing status, whichever is greater.

In 2015, the annual fee goes up to $325 per adult and $162.50 per child, up to $975 for a family, or 2 percent of household income above the tax return filing threshold for filing status, whichever is greater.

“It’s very important for people to understand that they're not going to be able to go down to their local insurance agent and purchase a health insurance policy after Feb. 15 until open enrollment comes around next year,” Hermes said. “This is for people who don't have insurance now.”

Those who miss the annual open enrollment deadline still have options for obtaining health insurance, however. People who qualify for Medicaid may enroll online at any time of the year, but those who don’t qualify and are subject to certain “life events” or have issues with their insurance application may qualify for a special enrollment period.

Those “life events” include, but are not limited to:

* Getting married.

* Having, adopting or placement of a child.

* Permanently moving to a new area that offers different health plan options.

* Losing other health coverage (for example due to a job loss, divorce, loss of eligibility for Medicaid or CHIP, expiration of COBRA coverage or a health plan being decertified). 

* A change in income or household status that affects eligibility for tax credits or cost-sharing reductions (for those already signed up for coverage through the Marketplace).

* Gaining citizenship status (for those not previously citizens, nationals or lawfully present individuals).

* Native Americans.

The Health Insurance Marketplace, as it is described by the Cover Kansas Navigator Project, is an internet portal where private companies sell insurance plans to those who need them. It’s designed to help individuals find health coverage as mandated under the Affordable Care Act, which was created to expand access to affordable health care coverage to all Americans.

For more information, visit or or call the Marketplace Call Center at (800) 318-2596.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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