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When is the Obamacare Deadline?

There are several deadlines you must stay on top of when researching, shopping for, and buying an Obamacare health insurance plan. Most people asking about Obamacare deadlines are concerned with the following three key areas:

  • Deadlines associated with the Obamacare open enrollment period
  • Deadlines associated with special enrollment periods
  • Deadlines based on when you want your coverage under a new Obamacare plan to start

Let’s examine each of these in turn.

Obamacare Deadlines: Open enrollment periods

Under Obamacare, most consumers are only eligible to purchase a new health insurance plan during the nationwide Obamacare open enrollment period. Open enrollment is the time when both individuals and families are eligible to enroll in an Obamacare health insurance plan. As the open enrollment period is only within a certain time frame, you will need to remember not to miss the Obamacare deadline for the year.

  • The Obamacare deadline for the 2016 open enrollment period ended January 31, 2016.
  • The 2017 Obamacare open enrollment period is scheduled to begin on November 1, 2016 and run until January 31, 2017.

The open enrollment period dates are established by the Center for Medicare Services (CMS). These are subject to change, and in fact have been extended more than once in previous open enrollment periods. It is important to stay abreast of these key Obamacare deadlines.

What happens if you miss the Obamacare Deadline for Open Enrollment?

Unless you qualify for a special enrollment period (detailed below), you are going to have to wait until the next year’s open enrollment period to sign up for an Obamacare plan on your own, and potentially even longer for your new coverage to begin. Additionally, you may be subject to a tax penalty from the IRS for not having minimum essential coverage.

What is the Obamacare Tax Penalty?

Unless you qualify for an exemption, Obamacare’s coverage mandate requires that you go no more than 2 consecutive months in a given year without the “essential health benefits” provided by an Obamacare-compliant health insurance plan. If you are not in compliance with this law or are without health coverage because you missed the Obamacare deadline, you may be required to pay a penalty on your next tax return.

The penalty’s cost is calculated in one of two ways: You either pay a percentage of your total household adjusted gross income or a flat rate, whichever is greater. The Obamacare tax penalty has increased over the past several years:

  • For 2015, the Obamacare tax penalty was either 2% of your household adjusted gross income, or a flat fee of $325 per adult and $162.50 per child up to a maximum of $975.
  • For 2016, the penalty rose to 2.5% of your household adjusted gross income, or a flat fee of $695 per adult and $347.50 per child up to a maximum of $2,085.
  • For 2017, and beyond, the percentage will remain flat at 2.5%. However, the flat fee will be variable based on inflation.

Obamacare Deadlines: Special enrollment periods

If you missed the Obamacare deadline, you may be qualified to purchase health insurance with a special enrollment period. Some Americans will qualify to purchase Obamacare insurance outside of open enrollment if they have a qualifying life event. Examples of qualifying events include loss of employer-based coverage, divorce, marriage, the birth or adoption of a child, and moving to a new  coverage area where your old plan is no longer effective. Under Obamacare, a qualifying life event will trigger a personal special enrollment period.

With a special enrollment period, you will generally have 60 days to enroll in an Obamacare plan after the date of your qualifying life event. If you miss that deadline, you’ll be out of luck and have to wait until the next open enrollment period begins. However, if you experience a second qualifying life event before the open enrollment period, you will again have a 60 day window to purchase an Obamacare plan.

Obamacare Deadlines: Deadlines based on when you want coverage to begin

Many consumers get confused about when their coverage actually begins once they have purchased their Obamacare plan. It is important to understand that most coverage does not begin the minute you sign up or pay for the insurance. Generally, the first date of your coverage under an Obamacare plan depends on the date on which you enrolled.

If you enroll in an Obamacare plan between the 1st and the 15th of the month, your coverage will typically begin on the 1st of the next month. If you enroll on or after the 16th of the month, your coverage will begin no sooner that the 1st of the month after next.

In other words; if you enroll on April 7th your coverage may begin on May 1st. However if you enroll on April 16th, your coverage typically won’t begin until June 1.

During an open enrollment period, your coverage can begin no sooner than the first day of the new year.

Many consumers experience a several week gap between their enrollment and coverage start dates. For people who find themselves uninsured during this period there is an option called short-term Insurance. This is an insurance product that, while it does not meet the Obamacare requirements for minimum benefits, will still provide a meaningful level of coverage to the individual and family until their Obamacare plan begins.

Consumers should be aware, however, that short-term plans typically do not provide coverage for pre-existing conditions or preventive care and may leave you open to a tax penalty under Obamacare.

Obamacare enrollment periods summary:

  • Most Americans eligible for Obamacare will need to enroll during the annual nationwide open enrollment period; the next open enrollment period (for 2017 plans) will begin on November 1, 2016.
  • If you do not have health insurance outside of the open enrollment period, and wish to get covered, then you will need to show proof of a qualifying life event that would make you eligible for a 60-day special enrollment period.
  • If you go more than two consecutive months without Obamacare-compliant coverage during a single year, you may be subject to a tax penalty when you file your federal tax return.
  • In the event that you do not have coverage, or experience a gap in coverage before your Obamacare plan begins, there is an option called short-term health insurance that is sold 12 months a year. This product will provide some coverage for individuals and families, but it does not exempt someone from incurring the tax penalty for not meeting Obamacare’s mandate that everyone have major medical health insurance. Short-term plans typically will not cover pre-existing conditions or preventive care.

So remember these enrollment periods and the dates for the upcoming open enrollment period to avoid incurring a tax penalty for next year. To start browsing for Obamacare health plans, simply enter your zip code on the page for a free personalized quote.