If you think you’ll be eligible for a health insurance subsidy in any way, now is the time to secure your coverage for 2014.

That’s because the Open Enrollment period for individuals and families searching for health insurance through the Marketplace is coming to an end on March 31, 2014.

What does this mean to you? Well, a few things.

It’s Your Last Chance To Qualify For A Subsidy

Take a look at this chart from healthcare.gov. Do either you or your family fall into any of these categories to possibly get some help paying for your health insurance? If so, you’ll need to apply for coverage by March 31, 2014.

After that date, you’ll either have to wait for a qualifying event to happen or for the next open enrollment period to begin (which is currently slated for November 15, 2014).
health-care-savings-chart-small

It’s Your Last Chance To Avoid A Penalty

That’s right. The dreaded penalty everyone has been talking about is inching ever closer. The truth is this penalty really won’t affect too many in 2014. If you’re covered through your job or you currently have a plan that you either purchased recently or within the last few years – you’re going to be able to avoid worrying about this.

Individuals that choose not to enroll in health insurance in 2014 will be on the hook for the penalty on their income tax return in 2015. There are, of course, some exceptions to the rule. Those can be found here.

It’s (likely) Your Last Chance To Get A Comprehensive Health Plan

For a while we were hearing that plans would stop being sold altogether after the open enrollment deadline, but that’s probably not going to be the case. If you miss the March 31 cutoff, you’ll most likely still be able to purchase a health insurance plan, albeit not a comprehensive one.

We think that most carriers will continue to sell temporary plans that will cover only emergency types of medical expenses, but won’t help you avoid the individual mandate penalty. That’s because they won’t meet the standards set by the Affordable Care Act.

I wouldn’t count on this, however. This is the first ever individual health insurance open enrollment period, so we truly don’t know what to expect after the March 31 deadline.

I have confirmed (after a phone call to the helpline) that healthcare.gov will not be selling any health plans on the marketplace outside of the open enrollment period, except for folks who have a qualifying event.

Source: Healthcare.gov | Photo: Picjumbo