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Health insurance signup deadline is March 31
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If you’ve been wondering about something in your community, Ask The Times is your place to get answers. The following questions were submitted by readers and answered through the efforts of our news staff.

What is the deadline to obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and what happens if I miss it?
The deadline to enroll in a qualifying health insurance program under the Affordable Care Act is March 31, 2014, according to the federal website

Under the law, each individual is required to obtain an eligible health insurance plan by that date or pay a penalty, often called the “individual responsibility payment,” when filing 2014 income taxes.

This fee is designed to increase every year; in 2014, the fee is either 1 percent of yearly household income or $95 per adult and $47.50 per child in a household, whichever is higher. The maximum penalty is the national average yearly premium for a the most basic eligible insurance plan, called a “bronze” plan.

In 2015, that amount will increase to 2 percent of income or $325 per person, and in 2016, it will be 2.5 percent of income and $695 per person. After that, the penalty will be adjusted for inflation.

If you are insured for only part of the year, you will pay a penalty for each month you were not enrolled in a plan unless you were not enrolled for less than three months, in which case there is no fee.

In addition to the penalty, those who are not covered will be responsible for any medical bills they may incur.

The fee will be collected when you file your 2014 income taxes. However, the IRS cannot place liens or levies or file criminal penalties, but it can withhold the amount owed from your future tax refunds.

After March 31, open enrollment on the federal health insurance marketplace will end, which means that you will no longer be able to enroll in a plan through the government website until the next enrollment period in November. You may be allowed to enroll outside of this period if you recently moved to a new state, underwent certain income changes or if your household size has recently changed.

In order to avoid the penalty, your insurance plan must meet minimum coverage requirements. Common plans that meet these requirements include Medicaid, Medicare, PeachCare for Kids, TRICARE and insurance plans available through the marketplace. Some plans that do not meet the requirements have been “grandfathered” in, and people covered by those plans will not have to change plans or pay a fee.

Exemptions from the individual responsibility payment are available for a variety of reasons such as hardship or membership to a recognized religious organization with objections to insurance. The exemptions can be applied for through the federal marketplace or when you file 2014 income taxes.

For more information or to enroll in a health insurance plan through the federal marketplace visit or call 1-800-318-2596.

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