If you’re still on the fence about getting insurance for 2015, then think fast: the deadline for open enrollment ends on February 15th. That gives you just under three weeks to consider your health insurance needs and sign up for a plan. You may be able to find an employer-sponsored plan through your work after the deadline, but don’t count on it. Most private insurance companies and employers will adhere to the government’s open enrollment period that ends mid-February. Fortunately, three weeks is plenty of time to reevaluate your healthcare needs. Take some time to crunch the numbers, and consider the following before you enroll.
Penalty fees are going up next year.
This year, people without insurance have to pay the greater of $95 or 1 percent of their taxable income to the IRS when they filed taxes. In 2015, that fee will increase substantially — more than three times the amount paid this year. When you file your taxes in 2015 you’ll have to pay either $325 or 2 percent of your taxable income, whichever amount is higher. The rate jumps again in 2016 to $695 or 2.5 percent of a family’s taxable income. If you’ve been holding out on insurance because the penalty fee is nominal this year, then consider the fact that the fee will increase next year if you don’t have insurance.
But the government doesn’t want people stressing about fines. It’s more important that people know that they can get affordable health insurance on the marketplace via subsidies. According to ConsumerReports.org, 90 percent of people who have signed up for insurance on the state marketplaces this year have qualified for subsidy assistance. Chances are good that you’re eligible for some help as well. Penalty fees might be scary, but you can easily avoid these fees and protect the ones you love by signing up for a qualified health plan by the deadline.
You’re stuck with your current plan unless you take action.
A lot of people who have insurance may not know that the open enrollment period is the only time during the year that they can change their insurance coverage if they don’t like it. If you signed up for health insurance last year but aren’t so keen on your coverage, then you need to revisit your insurer or the marketplace to check out your options. Like those who are signing up for the first time, you only have until February 15th to modify an existing plan or enroll in something new altogether.
Healthcare officials are actually encouraging people to review their policies before the deadline because there may be better deals available this year. The Affordable Care Act has been popular with people nationwide, and insurers took notice for the 2015 enrollment season. There are hundreds of new plans available on the marketplace now than there were last year, which means you may find an even more affordable pricing if you do some extra browsing.
Speak with a licensed insurance agent.
Not sure which plan to choose? Contact a licensed insurance agent to help you on your search, even if you believe you are eligible for financial assistance. The great thing about using a licensed agent is that they can handle all of the online navigation for you, can explain your options and make recommendations and can also get you a subsidy if your income qualifies you for one. Trained professionals have the tools and experience to find a plan that will meet your needs.
However you choose to start your healthcare research, keep in mind that you only have until Feb. 15 to sign up for health insurance (aka Obamacare) or face the increased penalty fines next year. There’s still time to enroll, so make the most of the next three weeks.