Insurance sign-up deadline looms

Published 11:05 pm Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Folks without health insurance are facing a Feb. 15 deadline to enroll in an Affordable Care Act plan or face a huge fee.

Those without health insurance who don’t enroll by the deadline and aren’t covered by one of several exemptions — including for income or hardships — will have to pay two percent of their annual household income or $325 per person — $162.50 per child — whichever is higher. The “individual shared responsibility payment” is higher than last year and also will go up next year.

“Even for people who feel that they’re healthy and they don’t want health care, or they don’t want the expense, they have to think about the penalty, because it’s going to get higher,” said Claressa Strawn with Enroll Virginia, a company that is helping people sign up for insurance.

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There are a number of ways people can sign up in the next month. They can go to, call 1-800-318-2596, get help from someone such as Enroll Virginia or fill out a paper application.

Strawn encouraged people who need to sign up to do so now.

“Don’t wait until the 15th or the 14th, because sometimes there are systemic problems, technical difficulties where the system may go down,” she said. “They don’t want to run into that, so it’s best not to wait until the last minute.”

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Everyone is required to have “minimum essential coverage,” or pay a fee, unless they meet certain exemptions.
  • After you fill out an application, the Marketplace will tell you whether you qualify for a health insurance plan with savings based on your income, or Medicaid.
  • If you qualify for a Marketplace plan, you must enroll before Feb. 15. After that, you can’t get 2015 coverage unless you qualify for a special enrollment period, for example if there’s a chance in your family status or you lose another health coverage.
  • If you qualify for Medicaid, you can enroll and get coverage anytime.
  • If you don’t have coverage, you will have to pay the penalty unless you have an exemption. Exemptions include being uninsured for less than three months of the year, the lowest-priced coverage would cost more than 8 percent of your household income, your income is too low, you’re a member of a federally recognized tribe, you’re incarcerated, you’re not lawfully present in the country or you qualify for a hardship exemption. Those with exemptions still must fill out a form applying for one.
  • Those who qualify for an exemption include those who are homeless, have faced eviction or foreclosure in the last six months, have received a shut-off notice from a utility company, recently experienced the death of a close family member, filed for bankruptcy in the last six months or a number of other cases.