We’re midway through the 2016 Obamacare Open Enrollment Period which runs from Nov. 1, 2015 through Jan. 31, 2016, and all Americans are required to sign up for Affordable Care Act (ACA)-compliant insurance plans (“Obamacare”) or renew their current plans. But you should really try to purchase coverage by Dec. 15, 2015. That’s because policies purchased by this date automatically begin on New Year’s Day. If you miss this deadline, you may be at risk face tax penalties, which have increased since 2015. Specifically, the penalty will be the greater of:
- $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, for a maximum of $2,085 per family. In 2015, this was $325 per adult and $162.50 per child
- 5 percent of your income above the tax filing threshold; in 2015, this was 2 percent in 2015
2016 enrollment on the upswing
The latest Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) research shows that by the OEP’s fifth week, 2.84 million people have enrolled in health coverage. While this figure is lower than 2015, it only includes those 37 states utilizing the federal Marketplace. Consumers using state-run exchanges (and the District of Columbia) and private insurance customers are not yet factored in. As such, 2016 OEP enrollment figures should increase, with a total of 14.7 million enrollees, compared to 2015’s 9.1 million.
The ACA was developed to ensure that people had convenient and affordable access to health coverage. But while the latest numbers are positive, many beneficiaries have yet to purchase plans, and they’re running out of time. Yes, the 2016 OEP officially ends on Jan. 31, 2016. But enrolling by Dec. 15, 2015 ensures your coverage starts on Jan. 1, 2016. If you enroll between Dec. 16, 2015 and Jan. 15, 2016, your coverage will begin on Feb. 1, 2016. And, if you enroll from Jan. 16-31, 2106, your coverage will begin on March 1, 2016.
However, these deadlines only apply to those people who want to: 1.) enroll in a new plan, or 2.) make changes to an existing plan. If you’re satisfied with your current coverage, you don’t have to take any action. Instead, you’ll be automatically enrolled in the same plan after Dec. 15, 2015.
It’s important to note that this Dec. 15, 2015, deadline only applies to 47 states. In Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Washington, residents are permitted to enroll or make plan changes until Dec. 23, 2015; their coverage will still begin on Jan. 1, 2016