A Prescription for Obamacare Anxiety

A Prescription for Obamacare Anxiety

Why you should care

Because whether or not you have to buy your own health insurance, Affordable Care Act requirements kicking in over the next year may affect your health plan.

Today is the last day to buy individual health insurance plans on the United States federal health exchange if you want to be insured in 2014. But it’s just the start of the many deadlines facing consumers looking to buy insurance and insurers trying to comply with regulations under the Affordable Care Act – a.k.a. Obamacare – next year. (State-run insurance exchanges are a different story).

With the dizzying array of facts, figures and dates being tossed around in the discussion about the health care law, new delays from the White House and spin from both sides of the political divide, OZY turned to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-partisan research foundation, and their Senior Fellow for Health Reform and Private Insurance, Karen Pollitz, to help sort through some of the most important dates to remember in the coming year:

January 1, 2014: Health insurance coverage starts for those who registered for plans under the federal exchange by December 23. Anyone who registers after that date will be eligible for the insurance plan at the start of the month following their registration.

UPDATE: The New York Times reports that the White House has extended the deadline to obtain health insurance on the federal exchange by 24 hours, giving people until midnight on December 24 to purchase coverage that begins on January 1, 2014.

It’s also the day penalties kick in for anyone who does not have the minimum required health care coverage, either through their employer or an individual plan acquired via a state or federal exchange. Violators will be required to pay a fine on their federal tax returns filed the following year. According to the IRS, ”The amount of any payment owed takes into account the number of months in a given year an individual is without minimal essential coverage or an exemption.”

March 31, 2014: This is the deadline to enroll in insurance coverage through the federal exchange for 2014. Pollitz points out, however, that there are exceptions for “qualifying life events” like getting married, having a baby or moving to a new state, when you could be eligible to enroll for 2014 coverage even after that date.

November 15, 2014 to January 15, 2015: The federal exchange’s open enrollment period for people to register for 2015 insurance coverage.

January 1, 2015: The deadline for large employers to offer health insurance to their employees or face a fine. The so-called “large employer mandate” affects companies with more than 50 employees who do not offer coverage. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, violators face ”a fee of $2,000 per full-time employee, excluding the first 30 employees.” Originally slated to kick in on the first day of 2014, the White House delayed the requirement for another year after an outcry from the private sector.

It’s also the date when fines kick in for individuals who do not have coverage if their health care plan was among those canceled this fall after the individual exchanges ramped up, after the White House delayed the 2014 deadline just this week. Those cancellations have become a political lightening rod, with Republicans seizing on the news to attack the law, as a whole, and President Obama, personally, for repeatedly promising over the course of the debate that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.

Pollitz says, “It’s really unclear how many people that’s going to affect.”

2015: A cap on consumers’ out-of-pocket health care costs – including deductibles and co-payments – kicks in. Under this part of the healthcare law, insurance companies will not be able to charge more than $6,350 for an individual or $12,700 for a family for those costs over a twelve-month period.

The requirement will come into force at different times throughout the year for different plans, depending on when they renew, says Pollitz.

This is another requirement the White House delayed from 2014.

For even more dates and details, the Kaiser Family Foundation has its own in-depth interactive timeline on the Affordable Care Act implementation here.

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