AUSTIN, Texas, March 4, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- While most of the attention in recent months on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has focused on its bumpy rollout and the deadline to gain coverage by January 1, 2014, the approaching open enrollment deadline of March 31, 2014, may be far more significant than most realize.
According to the law, anyone who has not purchased ACA-compliant coverage by March 31, 2014, will be unable to do so for the remainder of the year unless they experience a "qualifying event" such as a marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of a child, or loss of a job. Those not qualifying for special enrollment after March 31, 2014, will have to wait until open enrollment for 2015 opens on November 15, 2014, in order to purchase coverage.
Unless you're exempt from the requirement to obtain coverage, you could face a penalty of $95 or up to 1 percent of your household income, whichever is higher, if you do not obtain ACA-compliant coverage for 2014 by March 31. While many may be inclined to pay the first-year penalty rather than incurring the cost of purchasing coverage, the lack of health insurance could prove devastating should they experience a health care event or illness after the deadline. Surveys suggest that a large number of consumers are unaware that they will not have access to coverage for the remainder of the year after March 31, 2014. A recent Enroll America survey found that over 80 percent of Americans did not know of the March 31 deadline to enroll in policy purchased from a Health Insurance Exchange Marketplace.
Mark Bellman, president of the Texas Association of Health Underwriters, cautions consumers about taking that risk. "While a quick analysis of the low first-year penalty versus paying for the cost of coverage might seem like a no-brainer, a more important consideration might be, 'Can I handle the cost of a broken limb or serious illness should that occur?'" he said.
Bellman added, "When these considerations are weighed, most consumers realize very quickly the risk is greater than they are willing to take."
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SOURCE Texas Association of Health Underwriters