That was fast.
The first key deadline for individuals applying for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act is upon us.
Monday, December 23, marks the last day for individuals to sign up for coverage that will be effective on January 1, 2014. This deadline is critically important to you if you don’t currently have health insurance and want to have effective coverage on the earliest possible date.
Here are answers to 6 common questions we’ve been receiving about today’s big ACA deadline:
1. Why is this deadline important to me?
This deadline means the most to you if you currently don’t have health insurance and you want coverage that starts on January 1, 2014. After the December 23rd deadline, the earliest possible date to obtain effective coverage will be February 1, 2014.
2. I’ve completed my application, but couldn’t get my payment to process properly due to technical errors with healthcare.gov. Will my coverage be effective January 1, 2014?
Our individual health insurance team says that healthcare.gov is functioning normally today and that payments are going through properly, but there was a period of time where the site was having issues processing payment information. You should have received a follow-up letter or email letting you know your options for paying your first premium if this happened to you, but don’t freak if you aren’t able to get your payment in on December 23. Most insurers have extended the first premium payment deadline to January 10, 2014, which includes Florida Blue. See their answer to our tweet below:
@BaileyGroupFL Yes, If someone signs up for a QHP on the exchange, they have until 1/10 to pay their binder payment for a 1/1 coverage date.
— Florida Blue (@FLBlue) December 23, 2013
3. Will I be penalized for not having health insurance if I don’t sign up for coverage on December 23rd?
No. That’s a different deadline altogether. As long as you have health insurance coverage by March 31, 2014, you will not be penalized.
4. Is Healthcare.gov broken again? I can’t get on the site!
Healthcare.gov isn’t broken, but it may be incredibly busy at the time you’re trying to get in. Their twitter account says that they’re currently seeing a record number of visits to the site today, obviously in correlation with the December 23rd deadline. Patience will be a virtue today.
Record day so far at http://t.co/vQ74UBBs7F. Thousands visiting and enrolling now. Queuing deployed to help keep site smooth for users.
— HealthCare.gov (@HealthCareGov) December 23, 2013
5. I heard something about the deadline being extended a day. Is that true?
Yeah, we’ve seen the same thing — although we have no direct confirmation of the deadline being extended by a day.
The Washington Post published a story today claiming that “without any public announcement, Obama administration officials have changed the rules so that people will have an extra day to enroll, according to two individuals with knowledge of the switch.” It goes on to say that “government officials and outside IT contractors working on the online marketplace’s computer system made a software change that automatically gives people a Jan. 1 start date for their new coverage as long as they enroll by 11:59 p.m. on Christmas Eve.”
I wouldn’t count on this being true without some type of confirmation from the HHS or the White House. If you need coverage effective on January 1, 2014, make sure you complete your application today.
Update: The extension has been confirmed by a number of sources, including the New York Times. If you complete an application by December 24, your coverage will begin on January 1, 2014.
Deadline for Health Care Sign-Up Is Extended by a Day http://t.co/cOrvdzgarQ
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 23, 2013
6. Do I have to use Healthcare.gov? I don’t trust it!
Believe it or not, we’ve been hearing this a lot. The epic problems with healthcare.gov have given people many reasons to worry about putting their personal information into the website. You don’t have to use healthcare.gov. The same options that you had available to you to purchase coverage before the ACA, still exist today. You can contact an agent, broker or insurer directly and they’ll be able to sign you up for coverage. The only reason you’d probably have to use healthcare.gov is if you’ll be eligible for a subsidy.
Something we missed?
Have a question you’d like to add to this post? Leave it in the comments below and I’ll get back to you with an answer.
Mark Bailey, Jr. is the Senior Marketing Manager of NFP's Atlantic region. Before joining the company, Mark was a production assistant on the tv show Glee and an on-air talent on 95.1 WAPE. He has over 10 years of experience in the insurance and corporate benefits space. Mark is an avid Jacksonville Jaguars fan and loves to spend his free time building custom mechanical keyboards.