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There Are Just Over Three Weeks Left to Get Health Care Coverage in 2014

by: Emily Cadik

Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 10:00 AM CST

March 31 is the end of open enrollment for 2014 - just over three weeks from today. The next open enrollment period doesn't start until November 15, 2014, and health care coverage from that period won't kick in until January 1, 2015. But for those who enroll by the end of the month, coverage will start in April.

In order to get coverage outside of the open enrollment period, there has to be a qualifying life event like a marriage, divorce, birth or job loss. That means March is, for most, the last opportunity to get health care coverage in 2014.

For those who don't take advantage of the many affordable health care options now available, the consequences go beyond just spending 2014 without coverage. And aside from the few who qualify for a waiver, there will be more than just medical expenses coming out of pocket.

Read about the penalties for remaining uninsured in 2014 after the jump.

On top of paying exorbitant medical bills, the uninsured will pay a penalty beginning in 2014. For the first year, the penalty is the higher of $95 or 1 percent of income. That means only people making less than $19,650 would pay $95 - for anyone else, it could be substantially more. And it goes up every year after that.

In 2015, it's the greater of $325 per person or 2 percent of income, and in 2016 and beyond it's the greater of $695 per person or 2.5 percent of income. People who are uninsured for no more than three months can avoid the fee, hence the March 31 deadline. But the clock is ticking.

To avoid the penalty, all one needs is insurance that qualifies as minimum essential coverage. It can be any federal marketplace plan, any individual or employer plan, Medicare or Medicaid, and several other options. And thanks to tax credits, over half of all uninsured Americans qualify for Marketplace plans that will cost them less than $100 per month.

In late February, the number of newly insured Americans passed the 4 million mark, and the administration is aiming for 6 million by the end of open enrollment.

Unfortunately, only 208,000 Texans had enrolled as of mid-February. Considering that Texas started with 6 million uninsured people, there is still an enormous gap between what we have gained so far and what we stand to gain - and only 24 days to close it.

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Do not republish without express written permission.

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