Whether you need health insurance or you're considering signing up for a different policy, you'd better decide what to do soon. Unless you qualify for a special enrollment period based on extenuating circumstances, the open enrollment deadline for health insurance is Feb. 15. The government sets the deadline for enrollment, and while private insurers and employer-sponsored plans don't have to follow, most of them do. In order to get the coverage you need and avoid paying the penalty fine, you'll need to sign up in the next three weeks. If you're not sure where to start, don't worry. We've put together a few things to keep in mind before you submit that application.
Start by viewing plans & rates and seeing if you're eligible for free subsidies
Start by viewing rates here. You might be surprised to learn that 85% of people that enroll in ACA/Obamacare plans qualify for financial help, so check out your subsidy options. You might save thousands of dollars by enrolling in a marketplace plan, and you'll get the coverage you need to protect yourself and your loved ones. Regardless of where you buy your insurance, you only have until Feb. 15 to commit to a plan for the year. Otherwise, you'll have to pay a penalty fee as discussed below. Rest assured that you've got a little less than three weeks to go, so there's still time for you to enroll.
Reevaluate your coverage even if it works.
If you're one of the millions of satisfied consumers who took advantage of low-cost health insurance last year, then you might not think about enrollment at all in 2015. Those who already have plans via the marketplace will be reenrolled automatically into the same plan. However, you should consider double-checking your policy to see if it's still the best option for you. Healthcare officials have been encouraging enrollees to take another look at the marketplace this year because there are more options than there were in 2014.
Dozens of new insurance companies have jumped on board the marketplace bandwagon for 2015, which means you're more likely to find even better deals on your coverage. Plus, you'll have a better understanding of how subsidies work now that you've had a year to include them in your family's budget. Crunch the numbers to see how much care you need, and browse through your options on the marketplace. Despite the fact that premiums have gone up this year, you may find a lower-cost option. Like new enrollees, you only have until Feb. 15 to make any changes to your plan, so don't wait to reassess your needs.
Penalty fees increase over time.
The penalty fee for not having insurance in 2014 was relatively low, but it will increase to more than three times as much next year. For the 2016 tax season, individuals will pay the greater of $325 or 2 percent of their taxable income. In 2017, the fee increases to $695 or 2.5 percent of an individual's taxable income. Skipping out on insurance will quickly become cost-ineffective over the next few years.
Despite these hefty fines, the government's goal isn't to scare people into buying insurance. Instead, the feds want to make sure that everyone pays his or her fair share when it comes to the ACA. If you don't sign up for insurance, then you have to contribute via taxes. To avoid this penalty, just sign up for a plan. The benefits far outweigh the upfront cost in premiums. With new benefits and protections under the law, your monthly investment in health insurance will more than pay for itself in the long run.