Top Last-Minute 'Obamacare' Questions


WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Lisa Zamosky

March 27, 2014 -- If you want health insurance coverage this year, the last chance for most people to sign up is March 31. Sign up through the federal Marketplace, and you'll be given extra time to enroll -- as long as you start the process on HealthCare.gov by March 31, the Obama administration announced Tuesday.

The only way you can enroll later in the year is if you have a "life event," such as losing your job, moving, having a baby, or getting married. It may qualify you for a special enrollment period.

To help readers in the final days of 2014 open enrollment, WebMD hosted a live chat online to answer their questions about the Affordable Care Act.

While our experts answered questions on a range of subjects, the seven topics below came up most often.

Go to WebMD Answers to ask a question or search for more answers.

1. If I am on my spouse's insurance through work, do I need to buy new insurance through "Obamacare"?

No. If you have insurance through an employer -- yours or your spouse's -- you don't need to buy new insurance. You are covered. That's also true if you have Medicare, Medicaid, or Tricare.

2. How can I get dental insurance?

Dental coverage for children, but not adults, is one of the law's essential health benefits that insurers must provide. If you want a plan for yourself, you can shop on sites like Delta Dental or general health insurance sites such as GetInsured or eHealth.

3. How much will insurance cost vs. paying the penalty?

The penalty for not having health insurance will be $95 per adult or 1% of your annual taxable household income, whichever is larger. The penalty will be due at tax time in 2015. Depending on your income, it may be cheaper to pay the penalty. Keep in mind that without insurance, you will have to pay for all your medical expenses if you need health care.

You can look at HealthCare.gov to find out how much your premiums would be based on your income, age, and where you live. You can also find out whether or not you qualify for tax credits or Medicaid.

4. Does supplemental insurance count?

No. Supplemental insurance does not count as major medical insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Its only purpose is to provide supplemental coverage to an existing insurance plan.

5. If I buy insurance outside the Marketplaces before March 31, will I avoid the penalty?

You can buy coverage either inside or outside the Marketplaces. As long as you don't have more than 3 months in a row without coverage during the year, you won't be charged a tax penalty.

6. If I have private insurance now, but it is very expensive, can I change it if I find a cheaper plan on a Marketplace?

Yes. You can switch plans through March 31. You can compare benefits and prices at HealthCare.gov.

7. If I'm unemployed and I get Marketplace health insurance, what happens if I start working later this year?

If you get a subsidy based on an estimate of your 2014 earnings, and your situation changes during the year, you can avoid a tax bill next year by reporting the change to your state's Marketplace. They can adjust your federal premium subsidy based on your new earnings.

You also could keep paying the lower insurance premium you got through the subsidy and refund the government when you file your taxes next year.

SOURCES: Lisa Zamosky, WebMD Health Reform Expert; author of Healthcare, Insurance and You: The Savvy Consumer's Guide, Apress, 2013. Sarah Goodell, independent health policy consultant specializing in private insurance issues. The Washington Post: "Obama administration will allow more time to enroll in health care on federal marketplace."

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