Even though Monday, Dec. 15 was the deadline for a Jan. 1, 2015, healthcare plan start date, there is still time to sign up under the Affordable Care Act, according to officials.
Enrollees have until Jan. 15 to sign up if they want coverage to start on Feb. 1. Open enrollment will last until Feb. 15 for coverage that will begin on March 1.
Even those who signed up in 2014 are still encouraged to take a look at their health insurance options this time around. Some premiums have changed, and all who bought insurance get subsidies on their incomes, so it’s important to check that personal information is accurate on www.healthcare.gov.
In 2014, the penalty for not having insurance was 1% of a person’s income or $95 per person — whichever amount was higher. That amount goes up to 2% of income or $325 per person in penalties for 2015, which is to be paid when filing taxes.
State health insurance plans vary, and many states are expanding their choices. In Arizona, for instance, three new insurance companies will enter the individual market starting on Jan. 1, including United Healthcare, the country’s largest health insurance company.
While many in the United States receive their healthcare through their employees, that can be a costly option for some, and for at least 72% of small business owners, healthcare costs per employee can be a major source of stress. The ACA has helped millions of those Americans receive better access to healthcare services, especially in rural areas.
Although premiums may be higher in some of these markets, those who live below the poverty line will receive a subsidy.
John W. McCauley, the state executive director of the Kentucky Farm Service Agency, pointed out that many of the provisions of the ACA forbid insurers from denying coverage to those with a pre-existing condition. “That’s good news for rural Americans who, on average, suffer from higher rates of chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure than those living in urban areas,” he wrote for Louisville’s Courier Journal.
McCauley also mentioned that the ACA has invested significantly in community health centers, where 7.5 million rural Americans receive healthcare services. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also invested $3 billion since 2009 into rural hospitals and health clinics, among other services in remote areas.
McCauley’s state has also seen the largest increase in Medicaid enrollees, at a 71% jump from before the ACA took effect. Medicaid helps provide healthcare to older Americans.