Missed Obamacare Deadline? How You Can Still Get Coverage

News & Views | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 04/03/2014 | 10:00 AM EDT

Though the government cut off has passed, it's not too late to get healthcare

Though the March 31 deadline to sign up for Obamacare has passed, it’s not too late to get coverage. There are still a few options left if you are uninsured and failed to hop on board of the government’s big enrollment.

Millions of Americans may be eligible for a second chance to sign up for subsidized insurance this year. And those who get coverage after the deadline can still avoid, or at least reduce, the fine for going uninsured.

Here are five options available for those still without insurance, according to the Associated Press.

Take Advantage of Grace Period

There is a special break was created for anyone who began enrolling in an insurance marketplace by Monday’s deadline but didn’t finish. That includes people who experienced website outages or overwhelmed phone lines, missed information on their applications, and other problems or confusion. Those who started an application on HealthCare.gov by March 31 should log on and finish it as soon as possible. Federal officials say they will take what time is necessary to work through cases pending. Those applying online will have until April 15 to finish. Paper applications will be accepted until April 7. Consumers will have to attest that they had tried to enroll by March 31. Rules vary in the 14 states running their own insurance marketplaces. For most people, going through a marketplace opens the door to lower costs. Those who use the grace period will get coverage starting May 1 and won’t owe a fine.

Use Special Enrollment Period

The government is also offering special extensions for a host of problems that might have prevented people from signing up through a marketplace, such as natural disasters, domestic abuse, serious illness, mistakes by application counselors or errors by insurance companies. To seek a “special enrollment period,” contact the federal call center, or your state marketplace and explain what went wrong. If the extension is approved, that brings another 60 days to enroll. Also, at any time during the year, certain life events such as changing jobs, getting married or divorced, or becoming a parent, open a 60-day window to sign up for marketplace coverage.

Sign Up For Medicaid

Those who qualify can still enroll in Medicaid because there’s no deadline. Eligibility is based on income and varies from state to state. About half the states expanded their Medicaid programs. The main beneficiaries of the change are adults earning up to about $16,100 per year, with no children living at home. Previously, Medicaid was limited mostly to poor children and their parents and people with disabilities.

Buy Insurance Outside The Marketplaces

Buyers can always go directly to an insurance company, but it may be expensive. Plans bought outside the marketplaces don’t come with government subsidies that hold down the cost for people with low or mid-level incomes. But they do include the law’s consumer protections. For example, insurers can’t turn down customers because of pre-existing medical conditions. Even after the deadline, buying a plan that meets the law’s essential coverage standard reduces the penalty owed, which is based on the number of months without coverage.

Get Ready For Next Time

Open enrollment for 2015 is coming later this year. It’s scheduled to begin Nov. 15 and run just three months. That’s another chance to get covered or switch into a plan with subsidies. Supporters of the law are calling on President Barack Obama to make things easier next time around. However, the uninsured penalty next year rises to 2 percent of income or $325 per adult and $162.50 per child.

(Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images)

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