Tick, Tock: 5 Easy Steps to Take Before Marketplace Open Enrollment Ends

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Time is running out! The 2016 Health Insurance Marketplace open enrollment period is closing on January 31, so now is the time to explore health insurance options if you aren’t already covered. For those who don’t have individual, employer or government-sponsored insurance this may be your last chance to make sure you’re complying with the Affordable Care Act to avoid being hit with a tax penalty when you file your 2016 federal income taxes in 2017.

Check out these easy steps to make sure you are ACA-covered before Open Enrollment ends:

  1. Make sure your plan complies with the ACA.

If you already have a plan from the Health Insurance Marketplace, your state Marketplace or you’re enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or the VA, TRICARE or any other qualified coverage, your health insurance complies with the health law. Most work-based plans also comply, but double check with your employer to be sure. 

  1. Check to see if you qualify for a subsidy.

A subsidy is a form of financial assistance provided by the government. For health insurance, this usually comes in the form of an Advanced Premium Tax Credit. If you’re uninsured or buy coverage on your own, visit Healthcare.gov or your state’s Marketplace to determine if you qualify for Marketplace health insurance assistance. When you purchase health insurance in the Health Insurance Marketplace you may be eligible for an advanced premium tax credit and cost-sharing reductions, depending on your household income and size to help you pay for health insurance. A subsidy calculator is a helpful tool to let you know if you may qualify for a tax credit from the government and how much.

  1. Make sure your plan is still right for you.

If you already have a Marketplace plan, you may have been automatically enrolled in the same or a similar plan but you still have until January 31st to make a change. Make sure to update information about your income and family circumstances, such as the birth of a child or marriage. If your income decreased, you may be entitled to a larger tax credit if you didn’t get your full subsidy. Conversely, if your income increased, you may be getting more financial assistance than you’re entitled to and may need to re-pay the money when you file your income taxes. This will let you check to see if the plan is still right for you. Just remember to cancel your old policy to avoid being billed twice!

  1. Check Your Penalty and If You Qualify for an Exemption

Decide to go uninsured? Remember that there is a penalty if you choose to go without insurance. The health care reform tax penalty is calculated as a percentage of your household income or a flat rate per person and you will have to pay whichever one is higher. If you do not purchase health insurance for 2016, the penalty is increasing to $695 per adult or 2.5% of your annual household income. For uninsured children in your family, the penalty is $347.50 per child.

To help you easily estimate what your penalty may be, the IRS has a free online tool to determine if you’re eligible for an exemption. A complete list of exemptions is available at Healthcare.gov.

  1. Don’t Procrastinate Until the Last Day!

Don’t wait until the last day of Open Enrollment to sign up in the Marketplace! This will be the time of high online traffic volume, making it harder for you to get any last-minute questions you may have answered. To speed up the sign up processes, make sure to have all the information and documents you will need readily available, including social security numbers, address, employer and income information for every household member.

Make sure to take these five easy steps to ensure you and your family know how you will be impacted by health insurance before Marketplace Open Enrollment ends!

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