Good news if you missed the regular open enrollment period to buy qualifying healthcare or pay a penalty on your 2015 taxes: the federal government has moved the goal post again! A new, improved extra enrollment period is in effect until April 30, 2015. You can still purchase a plan in Obamacare extra enrollment period and avoid the tax penalty for the remainder of 2015.
What is the Obamacare Extra Enrollment Period?
According to HealthCare.gov, “Extra Enrollment Period is an unofficial term used to describe a one-off Special Enrollment Period outside of Open Enrollment. The March 15 to April 30 extra enrollment period will take place in 2015 only!” It is intended to give a little extra time to anyone who had “trouble enrolling” before open enrollment officially ended February 15, 2015 and who doesn’t meet the criteria for a standard Special Enrollment qualifying event.
Why is there an Obamacare Extra Enrollment Period?
The federal government created this extension, according to HealthCare.gov, because, “there are still many who are confused about the law. One of the main points of confusion is about how the fee works.” It came as a bit of a shock to many early tax filers this year that owed a penalty for failing to enroll in a plan in 2014. To avoid this same thing happening next year, when the fines will be significantly higher ($325 per adult and $162.50 per minor child up to $975 maximum or 2you’re your household income, whichever is greater) the government granted an extension. You may still owe a penalty for the months in 2015 that you weren’t covered, but not for the remaining months of the year.
Who Qualifies for the Extra Enrollment Period?
You may qualify for the extra enrollment extension under the following provisions:
- You are not currently enrolled in a qualifying healthcare plan for 2015 through a government-operated exchange or marketplace,
- You already filed your 2014 taxes and paid the 2014 penalty for not having a qualifying healthcare plan and
- You were confused or didn’t know about the 2015 Open Enrollment period.
Like normal Special Enrollment, this covers a fairly broad set of circumstances, meaning you should at least attempt to take advantage of it rather than go without healthcare.
Where to Enroll
Currently, if you want to qualify for any available tax credits or subsidies, you have to buy your qualifying plan during Extra Enrollment, Special Enrollment or normal Open Enrollment from a government exchange. Depending on where you live, this will either be operated by your state or the federal government. This is, however, a fluid situation that may change once the Supreme Court rules on King v. Burwell later this year. You can also compare quotes here.