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Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014
Healthcare Exchange Q&A

What is deadline for getting health insurance?

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Dates and deadlines surrounding the online Healthcare Marketplace appear to be adding anxiety to the divisive and confusing national health reform law.

Some residents reaching out to The Tampa Tribune’s Healthcare Q&A line are bewildered by the different cut-off dates for the Affordable Care Act and its requirement that Americans buy their own health insurance. They want to know the drop-dead deadlines for getting a plan and when financial penalties will start being issued.

We share that answer here, and you can find plenty of other queries and replies online at TBO.com/healthcare/qanda. Feel free to share your own questions there. We’re reaching out to a lot of local and national experts to get you straight answers, free from the political arguments.

Like you, we’re trying to find out exactly what all these changes mean to your family budget.

This week’s question is from Chase, a Plant City resident:

Question: When will I be required to have health care insurance in Florida to avoid the tax penalty? I’ve heard November from my parents, but I read January in a news article from California. Some clarification would be wonderful.

Answer: I understand your confusion. There are a lot of dates floating around the Healthcare Marketplace, or exchange, which is where about 25 percent of Floridians will now be able to shop for plans.

The official line from the Affordable Care Act is that most Americans must have insurance by Jan. 1 or face a penalty of $95 per adult or 1 percent of your income. You do not have to get insurance or pay a penalty if you:

*Go without insurance for three months or less.

*Have income too low to file a tax return.

*Have no affordable insurance options.

*Would qualify for Medicaid expansion but your state does not offer it (Florida is not expanding Medicaid);

are a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe.

*Have religious objections to health insurance; or

participate in a health care sharing ministry.

The exchange opens for business on Oct. 1 at www.healthcare.gov for people who don’t have employer-based insurance, Medicaid or Medicare. But it remains open past Jan. 1. Shoppers who want 2014 coverage can go there through March 31. (Probably because this is the program’s first year and it’s unrealistic to expect that the deadline will be met.)

The federal government avoids saying when it will go after rule breakers. It also sidesteps the words “tax” or “penalty,” opting to say that those who choose to not get insurance will be responsible for a “fee.”

mshedden@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7365

Twitter: @MaryShedden

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