That’s the deadline. If you haven’t yet signed up for health insurance, there’s no day like today.
Despite the record snowfalls and wind chills gripping the country, January was a hot month for healthcare.
More than 1.1 million people signed up for coverage through state and federal marketplaces, according to a recent Department of Health and Human Services report, bringing the total of new enrollees to about 3.3 million.
Now for some less heartwarming news:
Another survey shows that fewer than half of Americans polled know that March 31 is the deadline to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Bankrate.com’s Health Insurance Pulse revealed that nearly one-quarter of respondents incorrectly believed that the deadline had already passed on January 1 and about 11 percent think they have until the end of 2014 to enroll in a plan.
Though part of the confusion may stem from the Obama administration extending several other ACA deadlines, you should not assume that the March 31 date will change.
If you haven’t signed up for health insurance and you need to, it’s a good idea to act now rather than drag your feet until the last minute.
Here are three reasons you should sign up for health insurance now:
#1: Avoid the rush
It’s as simple as that.
As the deadline looms, expect a big publicity push to get the word out — and the potential for website traffic jams or processing backlogs just like the one around the first of the year. (Due to the surge of enrollees who signed up late last December, insurance companies found themselves overwhelmed, and many people had trouble verifying their coverage when seeing a healthcare provider.) Who needs that hassle?
#2: Avoid potential catastrophe if something unforeseen happens
The sooner you enroll, the sooner your new coverage will kick in. Signing up by March 15, for instance, will mean you’re covered beginning April 1.
If you wait till the bitter end, your insurance won’t start until May 1. (During open enrollment, selecting a plan by the 15th of the month means your coverage will start on the 1st of the following month.
If you enroll between the 16th and the last day of the month your coverage doesn’t start until the first day of the month after next.)
While 30 days might not seem like a long stretch, all it takes is one slip running to your car to escape an April shower to rack up medical bills that can swamp you if you’re uninsured.
#3: Avoid the penalty
March 31 is the date for having insurance in place. If you haven’t enrolled by then, you could face a tax penalty fee of $95 or 1 percent of your annual income, whichever is higher.
After that date, most of those without employer-based coverage, Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP can’t buy insurance until the next open enrollment period, which begins November 15, 2014, unless you experience a “qualifying event” such as getting married, having a child, or losing your employer-sponsored coverage.
So with less than six weeks to go, why push your luck?
To find out more, go to GetInsured.com or call 855-224-9212 to get help finding the best plan for you.