By Jesse Wood
Feb. 23, 2015. On Friday, the Obama administration announced a special open enrollment period that will allow certain people to sign up for health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace from March 15 to April 30.
The original enrollment deadline to receive federal subsidies on plans and to avoid a tax penalty when filing this year’s taxes next spring was Feb. 15.
Eric Schneider, an outreach and eligibility specialist, also known as a healthcare navigator, with High Country Community Health, said that while this special open enrollment period is not considered an “extension,” his office imagines quite a few households will be eligible.
In addition to the open enrollment period being eligible to those who had a “life event” such as marriage, having a baby, adopting a child, losing health care coverage, permanently moving out of coverage area, gaining citizenship and so forth, this enrollment period is geared to those who became aware of the penalty for not having insurance while filing their 2014 taxes.
“This [special open enrollment period] is so they can enroll in coverage and avoid the fine in 2015,” Schneider said. “A lot of people still aren’t aware that they are required to have insurance or pay a tax penalty.”
According to www.healthcare.gov, the federal website to enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace, individuals are asked:
- Aren’t currently enrolled in coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace for 2015
- Paid the fee with your 2014 federal income tax return, for not having health coverage in 2014
- Were confused or didn’t know about open enrollment dates for 2015 coverage, and need another opportunity to enroll in coverage for the remainder of 2015.
Schneider is available to meet with individuals needing assistance during this special enrollment period, including those wanting to enroll, those wondering about their eligibility to enroll, those who don’t understand their premium tax credit reconciliation amounts.
In addition, Schneider invites tax professionals and others in the area to schedule an appointment if they need help in identifying exemptions on tax forms or any questions regarding tax penalties.
Looking ahead to next year’s tax filing season, Schneider said that not all of the exemptions can be filed during the tax season. Some exemptions must be filed ahead of time to avoid a penalty.
Schneider said he’s received calls from five people that should have received an exemption when filing taxes, but tax preparers weren’t aware of some of the “lesser known exemptions that are a little hard to figure out.”
“I feel like for the most part people are getting it done correctly, but it never hurts to ask,” Schneider said.
For those that shouldn’t have received a penalty, Schneider suggests looking into filing an amended form.
Earlier this year, at least two tax preparers noted the upcoming challenges this season because of the new forms associated with Obamacare and taxes.
On Monday, a public relations firm sent out a release on behalf of NC Get Covered that noted that North Carolina ranked third in open enrollment with nearly 560,000 enrollees in health insurance plans.
“Despite this success, there are still thousands of uninsured residents who still need to enroll,” the release read.
In announcing the special enrollment period, NC Get Covered urged people to enroll in a plan to avoid a tax penalty and visit http://www.ncgetcovered.org/penalty_SEP for more information.
If you enroll on March 15, coverage is active April 1; if you enroll by April 15, coverage is active May 1; and if you enroll by April 30, coverage active June 1.