Wire Staff Writer
As the Feb. 15 deadline to enroll to purchase health care coverage via the Affordable Care Act approaches, there a few things to keep in mind.
Last week, the White House reached out specifically to community newspapers in a conference call with Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure people are aware of the opportunity they have,” she said, and this call was part of that. According to Muñoz, the majority of people who enroll through the marketplace are paying premiums less than $100 per month.
“This is really proving to be affordable to people,” she added.
This has been a major push for the administration of President Obama, to get all Americans enrolled in coverage. The goal is to have 9.1 million enrolled for 2015. Last week, the president made some remarks about the issue at the Affordable Care Act letter writer roundtable.
“The bottom line is that the Affordable Care Act is not an abstraction. The debate about making sure that every person in America is able to get basic, high-quality, affordable health care is not some political, ideological bet. It’s about people,” Obama said.
Some people log onto www.Healthcare.gov and find themselves lost. This can often translate to users inaccurately or inefficiently filing, and that can cost more money on their coverage.
“The one thing that I strongly suggest to everybody is don’t do it yourself,” Ron Hyman, an agent at Insurance Shops, based in the Feasterville-Trevose area, said. “We’ve done thousands of them and pick up those subtle mistakes that could change the outcome.”
He suggests calling an agent about the government marketplace. While both offer free assistance to those looking to enroll, he believes agents have more experience and know-how when it comes to finding the most appropriate coverage plans.
“That’s what I’m good at, that’s what all of us here are good at,” Hyman said.
He warned of some of the “knockout” questions that can cause an application to fail in the trying to get subsidies for coverage. For example, someone who is married, but files an individual tax return, would not qualify for extra money.
“There’s probably 50 questions that stump people,” he said. “If they answer it wrong, it changes the whole outcome.”
In this scenario, he would recommend spouses file jointly to save in the long run.
For all sides of this debate, though, getting health coverage is the major recommendation.
“Last year, the fine was a joke,” Hyman said.
In 2014, those without coverage were charged $95 per adult, $47.50 per child, but not more than $285 per family, or 1 percent of a person’s income. It was not stiff enough to compel people into coverage.
In 2015, the fine leaped to $325 per adult, $162.50 per child and no more than $975 per family, or 2 percent of a person’s income.
In 2016, those fines will double, likely making people without health care pay more than those with it.
Even now, those enrolled might be paying marginally more than the fine for being uncovered, and from that perspective, it only make sense to get covered.
Feb. 15 is advertised as the deadline to enroll in coverage starting March 1, but even if you miss that date, there may be some available options to avoid a year-long penalty.
“The rule of thumb that the government wants you to believe is that if you miss the deadline, you’re out of luck,” Hyman said. “There are lots of special enrollment periods that agents can help you out with.”