Are you ready for New Year’s Day? If you plan to start 2015 with health insurance, it’s time to get on it. You must enroll by Dec. 15 to secure coverage with a Jan. 1 effective date.All 2014 individual health insurance policies end when the year does. That means if you wait until after Dec. 15 to buy your 2015 insurance plan, you will likely wind up with a coverage gap.
Avoid being uninsured, even in the short term. Keep these deadlines in mind:
- Enroll by Dec. 15, 2014 — coverage effective Jan. 1, 2015
- Enroll between Dec. 16, 2014, and Jan. 15, 2015 — coverage effective Feb. 1, 2015
- Enroll between Jan. 16 and Feb. 15, 2015 — coverage effective March 1, 2015
- Open enrollment ends Feb. 15, 2015. You must qualify for a special enrollment period to buy health insurance after this date.
You can buy health insurance plans that qualify as minimum essential coverage from your state’s Obamacare exchange. You can also buy them in the private marketplace.
Uninsured? Change your status.
If you do not have health insurance, what are you waiting for? There are many options that not only put coverage in your reach, but also make it more affordable. You can search for plans in your area at HealthCare.com, visit your state’s exchange or the federal marketplace, or see if you qualify for Medicaid.
Under the Affordable Care Act, plans that qualify as minimum essential coverage (e.g., individual major medical insurance sold on and away from the exchange) include:
- No-cost preventive care as specified by the law
- Items and services in 10 categories of essential health benefits
- Annual out-of-pocket spending limits—what you pay out of pocket is capped
- No annual or lifetime cap on what health insurance companies pay toward essential health benefits
Concerned you won’t be eligible due to health problems?
By law, you can no longer denied coverage or charged more based on your health history or preexisting conditions.
Think you can’t afford health insurance?
You might be surprised. Income-based financial assistance that reduces monthly premium payments and out-of-pocket spending is available to those who shop and enroll through the state-based and federally facilitated health insurance exchanges. Furthermore, Medicaid expansion in 28 states means low- or no-cost health insurance for adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
See how much you could reduce your monthly premium payments using HealthCare.com’s tax credit subsidy calculator. If you qualify, visit your state’s exchange to apply for financial assistance and enroll in a plan.
Don’t think you need insurance?
By law, unless you qualify for an exemption from buying health insurance, you may experience a single period of up to three months without minimum essential coverage. After that, you may face a tax penalty known as the shared responsibility payment. In 2015, the penalty is the higher of these amounts:
- A flat dollar amount of $325 per adult and $162.50 per child under 18, up to a family maximum of $325
- 2 percent of your household income above the tax return filing threshold for your filing status
You can calculate your health insurance tax penalty if you choose not to carry coverage. This penalty is capped at the cost of the national average premium for a bronze plan sold through the state-based and federally facilitated exchanges.
Penalties aside, healthcare can be expensive. Health status can change, and accidents can happen. Few can pay their medical bills 100 percent out of pocket, and health insurance helps.
Not sure where to begin?
Learn how to estimate your costs, compare plans and make the purchase using our Everything You Need to Know About Shopping for Health Insurance infographic. It guides you through the process step by step and explains everything in a simple, easy-to-understand (and follow) manner.
Already insured? Don’t default to the same plan.
With the holiday season upon us and what feels like a thousand items to do, it may be tempting to decide your current coverage is “good enough.” And it might be. However, a little reevaluation and planning now can prevent headaches a few months down the road.
Plan options, premium rates, subsidy amounts and personal circumstances change from year to year. Spend some time browsing 2015 plans, assess whether or not your healthcare and financial needs have changed or will in the next 12 months, and recalculate your premium tax credit eligibility.
You may have been notified that your plan will automatically renew. You may still enroll in a different plan until open enrollment closes; however, do it by Dec. 15, if you want to switch coverage starting Jan. 1.
Check out the Everything You Need to Know About Shopping for Health Insurance infographic to get started.
Remember: Dec. 15 is your last day to enroll and begin coverage on Jan. 1.
 Internal Revenue Service. “The Individual Shared Responsibility Provision.” Last reviewed Nov. 28, 2014. http://www.irs.gov/uac/Individual-Shared-Responsibility-Provision.