If you don’t have access to employer-provided health insurance and don’t qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, you need to find health insurance that meets the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by Dec. 15, 2017.
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 get the best deal for your situation and maintain medical care coverage for you 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 healthcare.gov to help you discover 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 guidelines, you can do so outside the ACA health insurance marketplace. However, you’ll lose eligibility for a tax subsidy or credit.
In addition, you may not get access to lower premiums based on your income level.
You should apply through the ACA marketplace if you qualify for credits or subsidies. To apply for health insurance through the ACA marketplace, go to healthcare.gov.
To have coverage start on January 1, 2018, you need to apply by December 15, 2017. That’s when open enrollment ends. You can’t get coverage for 2018 beyond that date unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.
Avoid a penalty for not carrying health insurance
If you didn’t have health insurance in 2017, you may have to pay a $695 per person penalty or 2.5 percent of your annual income, whichever is higher on your tax return due in April 2018.
When it comes to coverage in 2018, you have until Dec. 15, 2017 to enroll and avoid a penalty for not having health insurance in 2018.
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 8.16 percent 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 canceled?
Some insurance plans are changing when they renew in 2018 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 prior to the close of open enrollment on Dec. 15, 2017.
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.