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What’s At Stake If You Miss the Deadline to Get Health Insurance?

What's At Stake If You Miss the Deadline to Get Health Insurance

The deadline to get health insurance is approaching.

If you don’t have access to employer-provided health insurance and you don’t qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, you need to make sure you have health insurance that meets the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by January 1, 2014.

If you don’t get qualified health insurance before the deadline, you could owe a tax penalty to the IRS.

By planning ahead, you can make sure you get the best deal for your situation and maintain medical care coverage for yourself and your family.

Researching your plan options

To find health insurance, you can go directly to an insurance company, use an insurance broker or agent, or use an online service.

The federal government also provides a Plan Finder at to help you find plans in your area. Note: This plan finder is not the ACA health insurance marketplace.

Applying for a plan

If you want to apply for health insurance that meets ACA rules, you can do so outside the ACA health insurance marketplace but you won’t be eligible for a subsidy or credit.

In addition, you may not get lower costs based on your income level.

You should apply through the ACA marketplace if you may qualify for credits or subsidies. To apply for health insurance through the ACA marketplace, go to

If you want to have health insurance in effect by January 1, 2014, you need to apply by December 23, 2014.

The Health Insurance Marketplace open enrollment ends March 31, 2014.

Avoiding a penalty for not carrying health insurance

If you don’t have health insurance in 2014, you may have to pay a $95 per person penalty or 1% of your annual income, whichever is higher on your tax return due in April 2015.

However, you have until March 31, 2014, to enroll and avoid a penalty for not having health insurance in 2014. That’s true even if your insurance does not go into effect until May 1.

You don’t have to worry about this penalty if your income is low enough that you don’t have to file a tax return.


You are also exempt from this law if you are a member of certain religious groups, a participant in a recognized health care sharing ministry, or are a member of a federally recognized tribe.

You also won’t be penalized if your premiums would cost more than 8% of your family income.

Make sure you have health insurance coverage

Remember, paying a fine for not carrying health insurance does not qualify you for any medical care coverage. If you don’t have insurance, you may pay a fine and be liable for catastrophic medical bills if you have a serious medical event.

It’s important to plan ahead. Applying for health insurance can take time, especially if you are going through the ACA marketplace.

What if my old insurance plan is being cancelled?

Some insurance plans are changing when they renew in 2014 to meet the requirements of the ACA. In that case, you can accept the plan with its new terms, or shop for a new plan.

If your insurance company cancels your plan, it must notify you within 90 days of the cancellation and give you the option of purchasing one of their other plans.

What’s the highest deductible you would consider having on your health insurance plan?

Photo credit: Kalexander2010 via photopin cc

About Sally Herigstad

Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and personal finance columnist and author of Help! I Can't Pay My Bills, Surviving a Financial Crisis (St. Martin's Griffin). She writes regularly at,,, RedPlum, and MSN Money. She is an experienced speaker and a member of Toastmasters International. Follow Sally on Twitter.