The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced from Nov. 1, 2015 through Jan. 20, 2016, an estimated 8.8 million people had enrolled in Obamacare/ACA insurance in the 38 states that rely on the federal exchange and another 2.7 million that use state-run exchanges (and the District of Columbia). Open Enrollment ends on January 31 and if Americans miss this deadline there are stronger penalties and risks than in previous years.
4 Risks To Not Enrolling By January 31:
Tax penalties – By not enrolling by 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 31, you could face IRS-imposed tax penalties. Some consumers may avoid these if they qualify for hardship exemptions. But if found liable, you’ll pay the greater of:
- $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, for a maximum of $2,085 per family; the 2015 penalty was $325 per adult and $162.50 per child
- 5 percent of your income above the tax filing threshold; the 2015 penalty was 2 percent
Read more here: Obamacare tax penalty.
Inability to purchase coverage – Not enrolling may prevent you from being insured later on. You may be able to enroll outside of the OEP, during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP), if you experience special life changes, known as Qualifying Life Events (QLEs); e.g., childbirth, loss of coverage, relocation. However the government has recently announced new restrictions that will make it more difficult to enroll for an SEP.
Short-term health insurance – Consumers may have to turn to short-term (or temporary) policies, which are meant for shorter periods (1-12 months). But they only cover emergencies, whereas traditional plans provide preventive care, physicals and immunizations. They do not meet the ACA’s benefit standards, so you could still face tax penalties. Short-term plans are not eligible for government subsidies. Pre-existing conditions are not covered, and you may be liable for coverage gaps if you switch to a traditional plan.
Out of pocket – Paying all medical expenses yourself can be very expensive. In 2014, uninsured low- and middle-income, nonelderly adults were twice as likely as those who gained coverage or had coverage to have problems paying medical bills. They were more likely to use up savings, have problems paying for necessities, borrow money or have medical bills sent to collection.