Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Obamacare deadline looms for buying individual health insurance

Insurance seekers who fail to enroll by March 31 may have to wait months for the next enrollment period.

By QuinStreet Mar 25, 2014 3:34PM
This story comes from Beth Orenstein at partner site on MSN MoneyIf you haven't bought health insurance yet, it's time to panic. You have until March 31 to buy coverage or you may have to pay a penalty when you file your 2014 taxes next year.

Surgeons operating on patient © Pete Saloutos, UpperCut Images, Getty ImagesThe Affordable Care Act requires most everyone who can afford health insurance to be covered by April 1 or pay a penalty. That penalty could be a maximum of $285 for a family of four or up to 1 percent of the family income, whichever is greater.

If you planned to buy a health plan through a broker or directly from a health insurance company for coverage in April, the March 15 deadline for doing so has passed. If you buy health insurance anytime from March 16 to the 31 outside the government-run marketplaces, your coverage won't start until May 1.

Exchanges offer some breathing room

You have a little more breathing room if you buy your plan from the government-run marketplace in your state. If you buy a plan through the marketplace before March 31, coverage won't start until May 1. But the Obama administration will let you slide. "Health and Human Services granted an extension for those enrolling in the marketplace but not for those enrolling outside the marketplace," says Carol Taylor, employee benefit advisor for D&S Agency in Roanoke, Va., a partner firm of United Benefit Advisors.

There is some urgency because really the only reason you would want to buy from the government-run exchange or marketplace is if you qualify for a subsidy, Taylor says. "If you buy outside the marketplace, you should be able to get more choices, and likely a larger network that is more suited to your needs," she says. "Health insurance companies don't have to offer the exact plans in the marketplace as they do out."

Open enrollment ending

If you are going to buy from the marketplace, you must do so during open enrollment and open enrollment which began Oct. 1 ends March 31. The next open enrollment is proposed to start Nov. 15 and end Jan. 15, 2015.

There's a reason for the current open enrollment period ending. Lawmakers felt they had to set a deadline or some people wouldn't enroll until they were sick and needed medical procedures. For the law to work, the government needs everyone to have coverage especially those who are healthy. Under the law, insurance companies can't refuse coverage based on your health status.

After March 31, the only way you will be able to buy a health insurance policy through the government-run marketplace for the rest of the year is if something happens and you lose your current coverage. That "something" is known as a qualifying life event, explains Scott Ogburn, senior consultant at ECM Ferguson Solutions in Greenville, S.C..

That's true for employer-sponsored plans as well -- you can only enroll during its open enrollment unless you have a qualifying event. About 70 percent of employers have open-enrollment during the last two months of the year for coverage that starts Jan. 1, notes Taylor.

Sign up for health insurance within 60 days of event

To be eligible to enroll in health care coverage outside open enrollment you typically must do so within 60 days of the qualifying event. Events that qualify include moving to a new state that offers different health plan options, certain changes in your income such as going from a full-time to a part-time job, and changes in your family status or size.

You would be eligible to enroll in a plan if you had coverage through your spouse or partner and you divorce or split. If you get married, you would be allowed to be added to your spouse's plan or your spouse added to your plan, Taylor says. If you have a child or adopt a child, the child can be added to your plan at that time as well.

You also would be eligible to enroll in the marketplace if you lose or quit your job and thus lose your employer-sponsored health-care coverage or if you have coverage through a spouse, partner or parent and he or she dies. If you decide to stop paying premiums or drop your health coverage for some other reason, it won't count. You won't be eligible for special enrollment.

If you have a disability or your income is low enough that you qualify for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program in your state, you can enroll in these programs at any time. They have no open enrollment periods, says Ogburn.

Penalties for not having health insurance will rise in future years

Under health care reform, you can go 90 days a year without health insurance and not be penalized. But if you didn't sign up for health insurance by March 31, you will have used up your grace period for the year.

The penalties for failure to have health insurance increase significantly in future years. In 2015 it's the greater of 2 percent of income or $325 per person. In 2016 and later years, it's 2.5 percent of income or $695 per person, whichever is greater. After that time, the penalties are adjusted for inflation.

If you're uninsured for just part of the year, one-twelfth of the yearly penalty applies to each month that you are uninsured.

Taylor suggests using one of the online calculators including at to see if you would qualify for a subsidy. The subsidy is based on a number of factors including annual income, family size and age.

If you qualify for a subsidy, you'd be better off buying from the marketplace and have until March 31 to decide. But if you don't qualify for a subsidy or for a small subsidy, you should look into plans available outside the marketplace, says Taylor. In that case, you need to get moving, she says, because time is running out.

More from


More "Chicken Little" scare tactics from the Obama shills. And the article admits openly - we need you to sign up while you're healthy so that your money can pay for the sick.


Nice try about the penalties - but those can only be collected out of your tax refund. So adjust your withholding so that you don't get a refund. Problem solved. No penalty.


And more scare tactics - penalties could rise in the future! Not if enough people get the guts to repeal this obamination.

Mar 25, 2014 4:40PM
The politicians are desperate. No one is buying into their bulls**t. And the media is writing more bulls**t to help push DC's bulls**t.
Mar 26, 2014 9:27AM
Nothing is looming!!  Nothing looms at all.  This IDIOTIC administration will delay and change and delay and change until people are so confused that they won't know what an atrocity obamacare is!   And then guess what....then the taxpayers will yet again fund a bailout of the insurance companies.    This whole "presidency" is a sham.  Smoke and mirrors at best.  obama is a bitter disappointemt and an abysmal abject failure  Undeniably.  
Mar 25, 2014 6:18PM

Obamacare was supposed to solve the problem of the 80 million uninsured. Word is we will have even more uninsured than we had before the healthcare law was imposed. The Obama shills keep on pointing to how many people have signed up, however there is a big difference between those who go through the sign up process and the number of people who actually make the payment and will have insurance.

Mar 25, 2014 6:30PM
Do you really think that they will finally be truthful about numbers when the deadline comes. My bet is they won't, why should they. they haven't been truthful since Pelopso said you have to pass it to see whats in it. Surprise America we got you fools real good this time. HA HA HA.
Mar 25, 2014 7:27PM
12,000,000 illegals aren't going to buy it, so neither am I.
Mar 25, 2014 7:51PM
Deadlines loom! This is what will happen. There won't be enough young people to sign up to pay for this mess.
Letters will go out after the election from the insurance companies to notify the people that their rates will be greatly increase.  The Democraps will do whatever it takes to keep the notices from going out before the election! 

The OBAMA-CRAP ACA will start the downward spiral of this country! 
Mar 25, 2014 11:21PM

And just like before Obama will step around the Constitution and make another sweeping change to his namesake legislation.

2016 End of an Error!

Vote out everyone who voted for ObamaCare!

Mar 25, 2014 7:34PM
Obamacare is a clusterfux deluxe........Less than 2 Million of the sign ups were by people who didn't already have insurance.  Time to put this abomination out to pasture.....
Mar 25, 2014 7:24PM
From the article:  "Lawmakers felt they had to set a deadline or some people wouldn't enroll until they were sick and needed medical procedures."

Oh yeah?  How many extensions to the PPACA has Obama granted, under Executive Order, since it became law?  I believe it's currently five or more.  All hail the King!
Mar 26, 2014 1:10AM

My daughter has been trying to sign up for the last week...She spends about an hour filling in the forms, then tries to register only to be kicked out by the website..???

The website is Still screwed up...FYI

Mar 25, 2014 6:22PM

He needs to be in line and buy it with a BIG OLD SMILE. And have his wife and kids sit next to welfare cases waiting in line to see the same Doctor.


I want an Ivy league doctor every chance I can get to help me. I work hard to make the cash I do that allows me to have that option.

Mar 25, 2014 6:24PM
state exchange coverage sucks, but not quite as bad as obamacare...
Mar 25, 2014 9:09PM
Ever get the feeling that our Federal Government purposely passes programs that harm or cripple (financially) those they're not intended to help, just so that more actually need said program, or another program of Federal assistance, thus creating a need for these programs to be maintained and grown all the while ignoring that these programs, if properly viewed in their coalesced form, are actually mere tools in the Government's model of self-preservation?
Mar 25, 2014 9:24PM
Another big corporation owned by insurance company's who own the puppet politicians just to make billions of dollars from us and now make threats to tax us if we do not buy there insurance plan, Our politicians are the terror terrorist and only thinking of them self's and how big there bank account is, If you look at our history the last 100 years of how our government and corporations do favors for each other called kickbacks in other words they give millions of dollars to them to make laws to to receive money, look in to it and you will see the truth,do not be fooled by the politicians.There is no such thing as a poor politician and they are all millionaires
Many Americans go to the other country's for surgery's or dental and many have built home's in these country's, why, because it is cheaper and they live like a king.
Did you know that many American' company's move to China because the labor is cheaper there and no workers comp to pay and this is not China's fault and remember Clinton open up the free trade with China, You should have the right and your constitutional right to choose if you want Insurance without threat's of taxing you if you do not want it, This is about Power, control,greed, corruption in our government and Corporations
Mar 26, 2014 11:02AM
At the bottom of the article:  "If you qualify for a subsidy, you'd be better off buying from the marketplace . . . But if you don't qualify for a subsidy or for a small subsidy, you should look into plans available outside the marketplace"

This implies that healthcare insurance being offered outside of the Federal- or State-run exchanges is likely to be cheaper, or better quality, or both.  Once again, the taxpayers will end up subsidizing a select group of the US population because the "marketplace" will never break even under these conditions.
Mar 26, 2014 12:54PM

Obo’s Lies

“I ended the war in Iraq” WRONG – Blame Bush, he negotiated the pullout of troops before he left office. Obo was negotiating to keep them there longer, but Iraq said,” No.”

“I saved to auto industry” WRONG – The industry would have gone through an orderly bankruptcy but now instead the U.S. government lost billions buying the company for the unions. You call that saving the industry?

“I’m a black man” WRONG – You are a Negro Caucasian. You are 50% white, 36.5% Arabic and 13.5% black African. Read your own book.

“The majority of people voted for me” WRONG – The majority of Americans did not vote, which means the majority wanted Romney or none of the above.

“The sequester was the Republicans fault” WRONG – It was your idea and is needed because you don’t have the intelligence or guts to do your job and make targeted across the board cuts that will benefit all citizens.

Mar 26, 2014 12:49PM
Not anymore. The F up and chief just extended it. Pass a crappy law, just ignore it and unconstitutionally change it. F up obo never gave a damn about the constitution anyway.
Mar 26, 2014 12:54PM

The End of a Dream

            It didn’t happen all at once, but the dream that was the United States of America, the Great Republic, has died. Other countries hostile to the idea of true freedom didn’t cause it; it wasn’t caused by a radical religious organization. The downfall of the United States was all from within its own borders, by its own people. The people, for whom others have died, have allowed the country to die a slow death. The me too, me first attitude that started many years ago, along with the idea that all are entitled to the fruits of others hard work, has allowed this country to bleed to death. When the British raised the tax on tea, our forefathers should have just shut up and paid the tax. Almost 240 years later, what has changed? Thousands have died for absolutely nothing.

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.