It’s hard to believe that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, was enacted back in 2010 and that most of its programs have been in effect since 2013/2014. That said, the rollout is slated to continue until 2022, which means new and improving benefits for those who sign up.
Since its inception, Obamacare has helped millions of previously uninsured Americans gain access to affordable healthcare options, including preventive care services. It has started to regulate healthcare, ensuring that everyone can receive the medical care they need, regardless of age, gender, or pre-existing conditions. Of course, if you want to take advantage of the services offered by Obamacare, you must first sign up for coverage.
Whether the benefits you are eligible for through a job provide for options within your state health exchange or you’re seeking outside coverage, you need to make sure that you know the deadlines for enrollment. Otherwise, you could find yourself out of compliance with mandatory minimum coverage, and facing penalties as a result.
Here are the upcoming deadlines you need to be aware of.
Open Enrollment Begins
Although major life changes like losing a job, getting married or divorced, or the birth of a child will allow you special circumstances under which to enroll in or change your healthcare plan at any time during the year, these instances are not typical. If you want to sign up for coverage through your state insurance exchange or make changes to existing coverage, you must do so during the short window of open enrollment that occurs each year.
Open enrollment for coverage beginning in 2017 begins on November 1, 2016. On this date you may apply for a new policy or change your existing policy. However, you also need to be aware of another date: December 15, 2016. If you want to ensure uninterrupted coverage or coverage that begins on January 1, 2017, you must make all of your elections before December 16, 2016.
December 31, 2016 is your last day of coverage under the plan you selected in the 2015/2016 open enrollment period. If you do nothing, your coverage will continue exactly as before into the new year. If you make changes to your policy by the December 15, 2016 deadline, however, your new policy will go into effect January 1, 2017.
Open Enrollment Closes
The window for open enrollment for the 2017 calendar year closes on January 31, 2017. If you’re enrolling for the first time or you’ve made changes to your existing coverage and you don’t complete them until January 31, your coverage will not go into effect for about a month.
What Happens if You Miss Deadlines?
If you fail to enroll in a healthcare plan or make changes prior to the closing of the open enrollment period, you will have to wait until the next open enrollment period to do so, starting in November of 2017. If you are not covered by a health insurance policy that meets mandatory minimum standards under the ACA, you could face a fine of $695 per adult in your household or 2.5% of your household income (whichever is higher).