March 31 is the deadline for the approximately 50 million Americans currently without health insurance to enroll under the Affordable Care Act. Those who have not signed up by the deadline will not only continue to be uninsured but may also have to pay a fine. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) anticipates a period of high activity until the deadline. While many consumers do not appear to be aware of the deadline of March 31, there are exceptions to this date. Those who meet the requirements for the Medicaid program for the poor do not have deadlines to worry over and may sign up at any time.
In addition to those Medicaid recipients, another exception to the deadline rule is for those who will become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65 years old. They may enroll for Medicare when they become eligible. Additionally, if anyone is currently insured but then loses medical coverage though an event such as getting laid off from work, they will be able to sign up outside of the open enrollment periods. There are also situations, such as having a child or moving to another state that would qualify a consumer to sign up at other times.
Those who do not meet any of these criteria may miss out on the eligible subsidies for the insurance premiums. The Obama administration does recognize that there may be exceptions for people who have attempted to obtain insurance but were unable to do so. There have been some noted issues with some enrollment websites.
There may be as many as 12 million people who previously did not have insurance that will be covered by the end of March due to this law. Another possible 10 million people will bypass the deadline and continue to be uninsured. The deadlines are in place to set time limitations on those Americans who would normally not bother to obtain insurance. Those who are eligible to receive Medicaid due to regulated salary limitations will not have to meet the program deadlines.
Many people may pass the deadline for the Affordable Care Act due to worries about affordability. The issue then becomes that they may lose out on some of the subsidies which will be in place to offset the premiums. These subsidies will be available for those who obtain coverage before the March deadline. The current open enrollment campaign is stressing the availability of the subsidy funds.
As many as 75 percent of people who remain uninsured are not aware there is a deadline at the end of March. The current focus of the Affordable Care Act administrators is to inform those people of both the deadline and the penalties for not conforming to the deadline. They will also be reaching out to educate anyone who is confused about the ACA or the insurance terms involved.
As the deadline of March 31 looms near, it is anticipated that there will be higher amounts of consumers researching the insurance options, asking questions, and making decisions. Those who are eligible for the Medicaid program for the poor will not have to worry about this deadline. For everyone not on the list of exceptions, the deadline of March 31 remains steadfast. The next open enrollment period will not be until November and will be to obtain coverage for 2015.
By Dee Mueller
The Logan Banner
The Boston Globe