Health Care Reform’s Overlooked Deadlines: eHealth Identifies Key Dates Consumers Need to Know
Important February 15 deadline approaching for consumers who want health coverage to begin before end of open enrollment
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – February 5, 2014 – eHealth, Inc. (NASDAQ: EHTH – www.ehealth.com), which operates eHealthInsurance.com, the nation’s first and largest private online health insurance exchange, today released information about health reform’s overlooked deadlines for consumers who intend to enroll in coverage during the current open enrollment period.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) established an annual nationwide open enrollment period for individual and family health insurance plans. The current open enrollment period began on October 1, 2013 and continues through March 31, 2014. Consumers without employer-based health coverage (or without Medicare, Medicaid, or another form of minimum essential coverage) who do not purchase health insurance by March 31 may be subject to a tax penalty on their 2014 federal tax return1. After March 31, 2014, uninsured consumers may not be able to obtain coverage under an individually-purchased health plan until the next open enrollment period, or unless they experience a qualifying event such as marriage, the birth of a child, or the loss of employer coverage.
According to a recent poll2, fewer than half (45%) of all Americans are able to correctly identify March 31, 2014 as the deadline to enroll in health insurance and avoid a tax penalty. Despite the fact that the March 31, 2014 deadline has been well publicized, 55% of consumers are unable to identify the last day of open enrollment.
Overlooked Obamacare Enrollment Deadlines
If relatively few consumers are aware of the March 31, 2014 deadline marking the end of open enrollment, even fewer are likely to know the following deadlines which may also affect their access to health insurance and the date on which their coverage can take effect.
February 15, 2014:
- Consumers who want their coverage to start as soon as possible (March 1, 2014), must complete their enrollment by February 15. The way the enrollment process typically works, consumers need to enroll in a health insurance plan no later than the 15th of any given month if they want coverage to start on the first day the next month. Those who enroll on the 16th day of the month or later will usually have to wait for the first day of the month after next before their coverage can begin. As such, consumers who miss the February 15 deadline and wait until February 16 or later to enroll may not be able to start coverage under their new health insurance plan any sooner than April 1, 2014.
February 16, 2014:
- Enrolling on this date or later means that a consumer’s coverage will not likely come into effect earlier than April 1, 2014, which is outside of the open enrollment period. This might have made the enrollee subject to a tax penalty if he or she had been uninsured since January 1 (that is, for three consecutive months). However, the federal government has said that consumers who enroll during open enrollment (that is, by March 31, 2014) will not need to pay a tax penalty. In order to avoid paying the tax penalty, these consumers should know that they may be required to claim a special hardship exemption when filing their 2014 federal tax returns 3.
March 15, 2014:
- This is the last date on which consumers may enroll in health insurance plans for coverage to begin on April 1, 2014. Consumers enrolling at this time may be required to claim a hardship exemption on their 2014 federal tax return in order to avoid a tax penalty.
March 16, 2014:
- Consumers who enroll in health plans between March 16 and March 31, 2014 (the end of open enrollment) may not be able to obtain coverage starting earlier than May 1, 2014. Again, consumers enrolling in this period may be required to claim a hardship exemption on their 2014 federal tax return in order to avoid a tax penalty.
Why Consumers Should Enroll Today
eHealth recommends that consumers who are waiting to enroll in 2014 health insurance plans complete their enrollment today for three reasons:
- Enroll today to avoid the rush. At the end of 2013, there was a flood of health insurance enrollments by persons who wanted their coverage to begin on January 1, 2014. Health insurance companies were so overwhelmed that in many cases they are still processing these enrollments, and many consumers are still waiting for confirmation that their coverage is in effect. There may be another flood of enrollments in late March as the final open enrollment deadline approaches. By enrolling now, you may avoid the rush and the confusion that may result from it.
- Enroll today to get your coverage as soon as possible. You can still complete your enrollment in time to obtain coverage under a new plan beginning on March 1, 2014. This is now the earliest date you are likely to be able to obtain coverage. The longer you go without health insurance, the longer you run the risk of dire financial consequences that may follow from an unexpected injury or illness.
- Enroll today to avoid the need to file an exemption. If you fail to enroll by February 15, 2014, your coverage under your plan will not begin any sooner than April 1, 2014 – outside of the open enrollment window. If you do not complete your enrollment by February 15, you may need to claim a hardship exemption on your 2014 federal tax return in order to avoid paying a tax penalty for being uninsured for three consecutive months.
1Consumers who are uninsured for more than three consecutive months in 2014 may be subject to a tax penalty of $95 or 1% of their income, whichever is greater.
2According to a survey by Bankrate; source: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/insurance/health-insurance-poll-0214.aspx#ixzz2rbYsVTOd
3 For more information, see the CMS fact sheet issued October 28, 2013: http://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Fact-Sheets-and-FAQs/Downloads/enrollment-period-faq-10-28-2013.pdf
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eHealth, Inc. (NASDAQ: EHTH) operates eHealthInsurance.com, the Nation’s first and largest private health insurance exchange where individuals, families and small businesses can compare health insurance products from leading insurers side by side and purchase and enroll in coverage online. eHealthInsurance offers thousands of individual, family and small business health plans underwritten by more than 200 of the nation's leading health insurance companies. eHealthInsurance is licensed to sell health insurance in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. eHealth, Inc. also provides powerful online and pharmacy-based tools to help Medicare beneficiaries navigate Medicare health insurance options, choose the right plan and enroll in select plans online through PlanPrescriber.com (www.planprescriber.com) and eHealthMedicare.com (www.eHealthMedicare.com).
For more health insurance news and information, visit the eHealth consumer blog: Get Smart – Get Covered or visit eHealth’s Affordable Care Act Resource Center at www.eHealth.com/affordable-care-act.