How to get health insurance help before the Feb. 15 deadline

Need help sorting through insurance choices? Not sure of the difference between a co-pay and a premium?

Don’t let these stop you from getting health insurance before February 15 — the last day of Open Enrollment for reduced-cost insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder.

Getting covered feels great! (flickr photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/pc-myshots-at-photography/)

Getting covered feels great! (flickr photo by pc-myshots@photography)

(After that date, enrollment still continues if your income allows you to qualify for Apple Health, or if you have a major life-event, such as getting married, losing a job or having a baby.)

To get help right away, start with King County’s coverage webpage.Special in-person enrollment events this weekend include:

  • Saturday, February 14, 11am-4pm, The Commons at Federal Way (mall), at Macy’s Court, 1928 South Commons, Federal Way, WA
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No Foolin’: Enrollment continues if you qualify for Apple Health

Family

If you or your family qualifies for Apple Health, there is no deadline to register for insurance.

A major component of the new Affordable Care Act in Washington state is expanded Medicaid coverage, or Apple Health as it is now called. This allows thousands more people statewide to qualify for free health insurance.

Although the open enrollment period has officially ended to buy into the insurance exchange, individuals and families who are eligible for Apple Health may continue to enroll throughout the year. In other words — there is no deadline.

Who qualifies? It depends on family size and household income

  • Individuals who earn less than $15,857 annually qualify
  • A family of four with a combined income below $32,500 will qualify
  • The more children or dependents in your family, the higher your household income level can be.

To find out instantly if you qualify, enter your income level, age, and household size using the calculator on this webpage.  Then, to sign up, go to Washington Healthplanfinder (click “OK” to the warning, and select “Apply for Coverage”). You’ll need your monthly household income, the social security number and date of birth for each member of your family seeking health insurance and any relevant immigration information. You should receive notification of your coverage options within the hour.

No matter what your income, anyone who experiences a “qualifying event,” such as getting married or changing jobs, can also sign-up outside the enrollment periods. Healthplanfinder offers some advice on how to qualify under these criteria.

While the federal deadlines do not apply to those who qualify for Apple Health, why wait? The sooner you apply, the sooner your insurance kicks in and you can better manage your and your family’s health.

Enrollment troubles may allow for extensions

For those who faced online frustration in the final days and hours of the open enrollment period, an extension might be an option.

  • If you completed the entire application before 11:59 pm on March 31 but received a payment or eligibility error, you may qualify for a deadline extension.
  • The state Exchange staff is assessing these instances on a case-by-case basis.
  • Requests for review could lead to retroactive coverage if technical issues prove to be associated with your application.

Before the deadline, if you’ve encountered a problem, try contacting the Customer Support team immediately—you’ll find a link to their number (1-855-923-4633) and a set of frequently asked questions in the upper right corner of Washington Healthplanfinder’s site. Additionally, King County staff are answering questions on March 31, by phone at 1- 800-756-5437, or in-person at several locations.

Chinook Event

In-person assisters offer last-minute enrollment help on March 31, the open enrollment deadline.

Process for getting an extension

Starting on April 1, 2014, the Exchange will contact customers who are not able to complete their applications due to technical problems and send them information about receiving coverage.

Customers also can request a review of an application that got stuck; call 1-855-923-4633 or email customersupport@wahbexchange.org.

This does not include customers who submit incomplete or incorrect information, or did not take steps to finish their current application in the system.

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What could the penalty cost you?

Tax penalties for failing to purchase health insurance go into effect this year.

Avoid fees

Avoid penalties, enroll in health insurance by March 31.

If, by April 1, you are without coverage and don’t meet the law’s exemption status, you face a fine based on your household income.

Here’s how the penalties (officially called “individual shared responsibility payments”) break down.

Exemptions may apply

If the lowest priced plan available to you on the marketplace (Washington Healthplanfinder) would cost more than eight percent of your household income, you are exempt from purchasing health insurance.

If you are facing a major financial hardship such as bankruptcy or eviction, you might avoid the penalty, too. Other exemptions, such as religious objections, apply.

Most penalties will cost more than $95

The most commonly cited figure, a $95 penalty, is a minimum. It applies specifically to unmarried individuals with no dependents making less than $19,650. Higher income-earning individuals will face higher penalties. Forbes gives the example of a single person making $30,000 a year, who would pay a tax penalty of $200, in addition to the cost of all of her own health expenses.

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Deadline looming: What you need to know about “enrollment period”

Our “What’s in a health word?” series helps decode the language of health insurance.

Open enrollment

Open enrollment for individual health insurance ends on March 31 for 2014. Flickr Photo by espinr

Health insurance enrollment windows can seem a little foggy.

When you have coverage through your job, annual “open enrollment” is the limited time when employees can change their existing health plans.

For Washington Healthplanfinder, and all of the new health exchanges, it’s similar. Open enrollment period refers to the time when individuals may register for coverage for that calendar year. The deadlines discourage people from enrolling in an insurance plan only when they need immediate medical attention.

What’s new this year is that it applies to any individual plan, which used to be sold year-round.

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Do you qualify for a health care subsidy?

Piggy Bank

Enrolling with Washington Healthplanfinder could help you qualify for a subsidy on your insurance.

Washington Healthplanfinder offers a variety of ways that individuals and families may qualify for assistance in the state’s insurance marketplace.

Apple Health
Apple Health (also called Medicaid) has been expanded, to cover people earning less than $15,857 a year and families of four with a combined income under $32,500.  This health coverage is free.

Tax credits or lower premiums
Individuals who earn up to $45,960 a year and families of four with a combined annual income of up to $94,200 could qualify for lower premiums as a tax credit. Those eligible may opt to receive the credit as a lower monthly insurance payment or as a refund at the time they file their taxes.

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