What if I don’t have health insurance on January 1?
You probably know that many Americans without employer-based health insurance will be required to buy coverage on their own in 2014. What you may not realize is that in order for your coverage to start on January 1, 2014 you’ll probably need to enroll in a new health insurance plan no later than December 23, 2013.
Why is this? Because there’s always a processing lag time between the date you enroll in a plan and the date on which your coverage can start. As such, it helps to think of December 23, 2013 as your deadline if you want to make sure you have coverage under a new, fully-reformed health insurance plan on January 1, 2014. (That said, check with your licensed agent or preferred insurer to see if they have special deadlines of their own.)
But what happens if you don’t have coverage on January 1? Will you need to pay a fine? Will you still be able to shop for coverage after January 1?
Here are a couple answers:
Will I have to pay a fine if I’m uninsured on January 1, 2014?
The provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires most Americans to have health insurance in 2014 is known as the “individual mandate.” It takes effect starting on New Year’s Day 2014. But if you find yourself without health coverage on that date, you will not automatically have to pay a fine.
The way the law is written, you would only face a penalty on your 2014 federal tax return if you’re subject to the individual mandate but not enrolled in a health plan for more than three consecutive months in 2014.
Can I still shop for health insurance after January 1, 2014?
The answer is yes. As mentioned above, if you want your coverage to start on January 1, 2014 you’ll need to enroll in a plan on December 23, 2013. However, the national open enrollment period for 2014 health plans continues through the end of March 2014.
If you’re uninsured today or know that coverage under your current plan will end at the end of this year, start shopping now. Work with a licensed online agent like eHealth to see what’s available in your area and get an estimate of your eligibility for a 2014 government subsidy.
But rest assured that if you do miss the December 23 or the January 1 deadlines you’re not simply out of luck. Learn more about health care reform and your coverage options today at eHealth’s Health Reform Resource Center.
Image by Flickr user Raymond Bryson