The ACA (Affordable Care Act) filing deadline was March 31, 2014. If you failed to acquire health insurance from HealthCare.gov by that date, you will probably have to pay a fine. That fine won’t kick in until you file your 2014 taxes, so even if you’ve yet to file your 2013 taxes, you needn’t worry about it immediately. Still, looking ahead to the future, there are some ways that you can avoid paying that fine for 2014. As for 2015 and beyond, open enrollment begins again in November, so be ready when the next opportunity arises.
Private Insurance – With a few exceptions, the insurance marketplace is closed. But the marketplace was never the only option for buying insurance. You have always been allowed to contact private insurance companies directly and buy insurance that way. You won’t receive a tax refund, if eligible for one, by purchasing insurance this way, but you will be insured and if you purchase it quickly enough your insurance will start the same day as anyone who purchased during the last two weeks the exchange was open.
Catastrophic and Medicaid Eligibility – If you are eligible for either catastrophic insurance or Medicaid, you can potentially still get insurance. For catastrophic insurance, you must get a certified exemption which will then allow you to shop on the exchange. For Medicaid, while you can’t sign up on the exchange, you can sign up directly with your state due to the fact that Medicaid has year round open enrollment.
Major Life Event – You almost certainly don’t want to have a major life event, but if it should happen, you will qualify to sign up on the exchange, despite the fact that the enrollment period is over. A major life event includes things like death of a primary caregiver, divorce, or loss of a job. Also, if you change jobs, you will eligible for the insurance available at your new job. You probably shouldn’t change jobs just because you missed the filing deadline. Better to pay the fine, but the option does exist.
Appeal – This option only exists if you already started the application process but never completed it. You have 90 days after receiving your determination of status to appeal that status. If those 90 days haven’t passed and your appeal is successful, you will be given a new opportunity to sign up on the marketplace based on your new status.
Technical Difficulties – If you started the process in the last few days of the enrollment period there is a good chance you encountered technical difficulties. If those technical difficulties prevented you from filing by the deadline, the Obama administration has granted a possible extension. You can check a box on the HealthCare.gov website and gain a few more weeks to purchase insurance. This extension is entirely based on the honor system, but it is generally a bad idea to lie to the government.
Tax Filing Threshold – If your income is low enough that you aren’t required to file taxes then you are safe from any fines. Of course, if your income is that low you almost certainly qualify for Medicaid and you should apply for that. But if you don’t qualify for Medicaid due to reasons other than income, you won’t need to pay the fine. You can check the IRS website for the exact value of the filing deadline.
Save Now – If none of these options work then you should start saving money now. The fine is 1% of your income beyond the filing threshold of roughly $10,000. If you put 1% of your paycheck in an interest bearing account each week, you will have saved close to what you need to cover that fine by the end of the year, possibly more if you earn less than $40,000 a year. It doesn’t avoid the fine, but by spreading the pain out over the next 39 weeks, you won’t be suddenly hit with an unexpectedly large fine when you pay your 2014 taxes.