The deadline for applying for health insurance was February 15th – or maybe it wasn’t.
The federal Marketplace is extending the deadline – but only for people who started an application but did not finish it. People who have set up an account on healthcare.gov have until Sunday, February 22 to finish their enrollment.
Some states with their own health insurance exchanges are extending the “annual enrollment period”.
Some insurance companies are still accepting applications for those who do not qualify for a subsidy. I got an email today from Humana saying they will accept applications through February 25th.
Democrats in Congress want to give uninsured people a second chance to enroll in health insurance once they do their income tax forms and learn about the penalty they will pay for not having health insurance. 80% of these people will probably qualify for help with their premium.
I’ll be watching the news for an extension to the health insurance deadline because of a call I got on Monday, February 16th. A woman called me saying she was given my name by one of my Medicare clients. She got my name and number two weeks ago, but did not think to call me until she was paying her health insurance bill last weekend.
Ellen said she had no clue there was an annual enrollment period for buying health insurance. I guess she doesn’t read the newspaper or watch tv!
Ellen has health insurance, but it has a $10,000 deductible and she pays $200 per month for it. This is a plan for catastrophic coverage and she’s had it for a while. She says she talked to Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) last month to see if she could change her deductible. She says she was told that she will pay a much higher premium in 2016 because her $10,000 deductible plan will no longer be allowed and the maximum deductible will be $6,500.
I don’t know why the the BCBS customer service rep did not tell her to explore her options and that she had a limited period to do this. Customer Service reps are not sales people, but you’d think the company would train them to tell people to explore their options.
I asked Ellen what her income is to see if she qualifies for a subsidy – and it turns out she would get a big one. She is self-employed and her adjusted gross income was $22,000 on her 2013 tax return. I told her that Obamacare and tax subsidies were designed for people like her. She could get a great health insurance plan with a $500 deductible for around $100 per month (after her subsidy/tax credit).
Unfortunately, Ellen missed the health insurance deadline for enrolling through the Marketplace and getting help with her premium cost. I told her I will call her if the health insurance deadline is extended, and I said I will be very upset if people without insurance get a deadline while she does not.
I guess there are millions of Americans who have not heard about the health insurance mandate and the tax penalty for going without health insurance. I agree that the enrollment deadline should coincide with tax filing season. But if people who are uninsured get an extension, so should people like Ellen.
Ellen has done the responsible thing by being insured – even though she could only afford a $10,000 deductible plan. If uninsured people get an extension, people with lousy insurance (like Ellen) should also get an extension.