Obamacare signups still open

Published 9:33 pm Saturday, December 28, 2013

The deadline to sign up for health insurance coverage beginning Jan. 1 through the Affordable Care Act has passed, but folks who want to sign up can still do so through March 31.

That’s when this year’s open enrollment ends for what’s become popularly known as “Obamacare,” so nicknamed because of the president’s support for the bill.

Virginia residents who don’t have health insurance, or do have insurance but want to shop for a lower-priced plan, can visit www.healthcare.gov to get all the particulars and apply for a plan. But at least one local insurance agent says the website isn’t working as designed, and the Affordable Care Act isn’t making health care more affordable.

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“I don’t think it’s accomplishing what the administration indicated it might do,” said John Woleben of Friedman Associates Insurance. “It’s really becoming more expensive. Individuals are going to have to pay considerably more out of pocket, and a lot of employers are doing away with their group plans because of the cost and the requirement they have to cover everybody. That could just put businesses out of business.”

Woleben also said the government website is “a mess.”

“It works sometimes; it doesn’t work other times,” he said. “It’s not an easy system to navigate.”

Even so, folks who can afford insurance but don’t already have it and don’t purchase it through the online marketplace by March 31 will be required to pay a fee in 2014. The fee will be $95 per adult and $47.50 per child or one percent of your income, whichever is higher, up to a family maximum of $285. The fee increases every year, up to $695 per person or 2.5 percent of income in 2016.

People who already have Medicare or Medicaid, a plan through their employer or a family member’s employer, or some other type of insurance do not have to worry about paying the fee, but most people can shop for a plan through the marketplace to see if there is one that is less expensive.

People who owe the fee will be asked to pony up when filing their 2014 taxes.

Some people will qualify for an exemption from the fee. They include people who are uninsured for less than three months of the year; people to whom the lowest priced coverage available would cost more than eight percent of their household income; people who are incarcerated; or people who have experienced a hardship such as homelessness, eviction, domestic violence, bankruptcy or some other qualifying issue, all of which are listed on the www.healthcare.gov website.

For more information, visit the website or call 1-800-318-2596.