Deadline nears for health insurance signup

Deadline nears for health insurance signup

If you still don't have health insurance, you've got less than a month to sign up.

The six-month open enrollment period that was launched Oct. 1, 2013 to meet the Affordable Care Act requirement that nearly everyone have health insurance this year will close at the end of March.

If you've been procrastinating or just ignoring the commercials and planning to stay healthy, here are some things to know.

The deadline

The enrollment deadline applies to uninsured folks signing up for a private health plan through the government marketplace, many with the help of a premium subsidy.

Once enrollment closes for the year, it will reopen only on an individual basis for those who have a qualifying life event, such as a marriage, divorce, birth of a child or move to another state.

How about Medicaid?

You can continue to enroll in Medicaid, the government health plan for the needy, past the March 31 deadline.

Medicaid is mainly for people with low incomes, pregnant women and the disabled.

Income eligibility is based on family size. If you live alone, you would be eligible for Medicaid if your income is less than $15,282 this year.

Covered by Medicare?

You can ignore Obamacare enrollment.

Have a pre-existing condition?

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers may no longer deny coverage or charge more if you have a pre-existing condition.

Penalties

You remain uninsured if you fail to enroll, plus you pay a penalty calculated one of two ways: For the first year, it's $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, or 1 percent of annual income, whichever is higher.

Penalties are due with the 2014 tax filing in April 2015.

Exemptions

If you remain uninsured, you might qualify for an exemption from paying the fine if:

— You are uninsured for less than three months of the year.

— Your income is so low that the cheapest coverage would cost more than eight percent of your household income, or you don't have to file a tax return.

— You belong to a federally recognized tribe, recognized health care sharing ministry or religious sect that objects to insurance.

— You are incarcerated or unlawfully in the U.S.

— You qualify for one of the hardship exemptions, some of which include: being evicted in the last six months or facing eviction or foreclosure; had a utility shut-off notice; recently experienced domestic violence, the death of a close family member, a fire, flood or other natural or human-caused disaster that substantially damaged your property; you filed for bankruptcy in the last six months; you had medical expenses you couldn't pay in the last two years or you had unexpected increases in the cost of caring for an ill, disabled or aging family member.

In-person help enrolling

There are several options this month.

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District is offering in-person help every weekday at 201 W. Kenyon Road, C.

Help is available at other public health department offices in the area, but call ahead for availability of enrollment counselors, called navigators.

— Campaign for Better Health Care is offering a series of enrollment events.

Those by appointment:

— Parkland College, 2400 W. Bradley Ave., C, March 5, March 12 and March 19, all noon to 5 p.m. For an appointment email rporter@cbhconline.org or call 352-5600.

— Danville Public Library, 319 N. Vermilion St., March 6, March 13, March 20 and March 27, all 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For an appointment, email Iserb@cbhconline.org or call 352-5600.

Open enrollment meetings, all from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., no appointment needed:

— March 8, Salem Baptist Church, 500 E. Park St. C.

— March 15, St. Matthew Lutheran Church, 2200 Philo Road, U.

— March 22, Wesley Foundation, 1203 W. Green St., U.

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