MARCH 31 IS DEADLINE TO SIGN UP FOR HEALTHCARE THROUGH COVERED CALIFORNIA: PENALTIES KICK IN FOR UNINSURED

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Update: The Obama adminsitration has announced it will extend the deadline for anyone who started applying online before March 31, but was not able to complete an application due to technical difficulties.

By Miriam Raftery

March 23, 2014 (Sacramento) – If you don’t have health insurance, the Affordable Act requires that you purchase it by March 31, or pay stiff fines.  If you’re low income, there are subsidies available to help you afford healthcare for you and your family.

March 31 is also the last day for anyone to sign up for healthcare in 2014 through Covered California (www.coveredca.com) , the new healthcare exchange programs in our state. So far, over 1 million Californians have signed up.

The law requires that you have insurance by March 31, either through Covered California,  private insurance, or another program such as Medicare or  TriCare for veterans.  If you have no health insurance, the penalty will be the greater of the following: 1% of your family income above the tax filing threshold,  or  $285 per family ($95 per adult and $47.50 per child) in 2014. Rates rise steeply over the next two years.

By 2014 the rate skyrockets to a max of $975 per family ($325 per adult and $162.50 per child) or 2% of family income over the tax filing threshold.  By 2016 and beyond, you could be paying 2.5% or up to $2,085 for a family, $695 per adult and $347.50 per child.   So whether you love Obamacare or hate it, it’s fiscally prudent to purchase some form of health insurance to avoid even costlier fines.

The good news is that many (though not all) have found better coverage at more affordable rates through Covered California than they could obtain on the private market – plus with the state/federal plans you don’t have to worry about being denied for pre-existing conditions.

The requirement to purchase healthcare applies not only to citizens, but also to legal immigrants, who are required to provide proof of legal status.  Undocumented immigrants can, however, apply for coverage for families who are here legally without fear of deportation – for instance, undocumented parents can apply to get healthcare for children born here, who are legal residents of California.

For help, you can visit www.coveredca.com, where you can also get a list of insurance brokers in your community.  It is free to use an insurance broker to obtain help filling out forms or advice on the differences between healthcare plans.