Special “tax season” enrollment period offered for 2015 coverage

dad_kids_computer_clip2On February 20, CMS announced a special enrollment period for tax season. It gives people who are subject to the Shared Responsibility Payment on their 2014 taxes and live in a state that uses HealthCare.gov (the federally facilitated Marketplace) a little more time to enroll in 2015 coverage.

The special enrollment period is March 15 through April 30. Your coverage will begin on either the 1st or the 15th of the following month, depending on the date you enroll.

To be eligible for the special enrollment you must:

  1. Not yet be enrolled in coverage for 2015 through HealthCare.gov,
  2. Attest that when you filed your 2014 tax return, you paid the fee for not having health coverage in 2014, and
  3. Attest that you first became aware of, or understood the implications of, the Shared Responsibility Payment after the end of open enrollment (February 15, 2015) in connection with preparing your 2014 taxes.

What about states that don’t use the federally facilitated Marketplace? These states are able to make their own decisions about whether to allow this special enrollment period, so you’ll need to check eligibility through your state’s Marketplace.

Is there anything I should know as a PacificSource customer? If you’re a PacificSource customer purchasing 2015 individual coverage direct through us, we will honor this special enrollment period for tax season in states that are allowing it.

Here’s what we know:

  • Oregon and Montana will allow the special enrollment period for tax season. PacificSource will also honor it for customers purchasing individual coverage directly from us.
  • Idaho: Idaho has its own Marketplace, YourHealthIdaho.org. Your Health Idaho has chosen not to extend the special enrollment period for tax season. However, if you tried to enroll by the end of the enrollment period deadline, but were not able to finalize your plan selection in time for reasons beyond your control, Your Health Idaho will review your situation to see if you qualify for a special enrollment to be effective March 1. PacificSource, to be consistent with Your Health Idaho, will also not extend the special enrollment period. If you purchase your individual plan direct from us, February 28 will be our deadline for plans effective March 1.

Get Out, Get Covered Tour

GOGC UO CampusFinding the right health insurance plan doesn’t have to be a headache, which is exactly why the PacificSource “Get Out, Get Covered” tour is visiting communities across Montana and Oregon to give folks a convenient, stress-free forum where they can get individual answers to their health insurance questions.

The Get Out, Get Covered events’ drop-in format allows busy people to stop by at any point during a two- to three-hour window of time for one-on-one assistance. Our representatives and independent insurance agents will help people with an “easy as 1 – 2 – 3” approach:

  1. See if they qualify for a tax credit.
  2. Shop for individual health insurance plans.
  3. Enroll, renew, or switch coverage through the Marketplace or directly with PacificSource.

Where and when will these events take place?

GOGC Butte croppedTour stops will take place during daytime and evening hours in a wide variety of settings. Venues such as community recreation centers and cafés will host daytime events, while restaurants and breweries will host evening events. These casual settings are intended to help people feel more comfortable getting the answers they need without the pressure to make a decision.

Specific meeting dates, times, and venues are located on the event website, GetOutGetCovered.com. The website also contains resources to answer basic enrollment question, assisting people with enrollment, and information on where to go for help.

Why are we doing this?

We want to help people get the healthcare they need.

“We’re making it simple to research and shop for health insurance by providing a format that is casual, informal, and gives people the opportunity to get answers to their questions over a beer or a cup of coffee,” said Todd Lovshin, “Get Out, Get Covered is an easy way for busy folks to tackle an important subject in a hassle- and worry-free setting.”

What’s the deal with “Qualifying Events”?

Penguin Judo. Is this a thing?

Penguin Judo. Is this a thing?

If you’re like me, you think about enrolling in something at about the exact time you need it. That judo class at the Learning Annex that starts on Saturday? I’ll think about enrolling Saturday morning. Getting renter’s insurance for my new apartment? I’ll think about enrolling when the roof starts leaking. And health insurance? I’ll think about enrolling the next time I get sick.

 

The fact that I still don’t know judo is the first hint that this process isn’t working very well for me. It turns out, you almost always have to enroll in things well before the start date. There’s usually a window of time, and that window closes. At the Learning Annex, sometimes you can beg and plead and get the judo instructor to make an exception for you. But with important things like health insurance, there are laws that control when you can enroll. Begging and pleading? Forget about it.

With healthcare reform, there are now specific times of the year when you can enroll in health insurance. Those times are called “open enrollment periods” and, hint, they don’t last forever! If you don’t enroll during an open enrollment period, you have missed your window, and you have to wait until the next time open enrollment comes around.

Unless – HI-YA (Judo chop) – you have a “qualifying event.” These are life events that are significant enough that the law allows you to enroll in health insurance right then, and not have to wait until the next open enrollment period. The following are the qualifying events that will allow you to enroll in health insurance coverage:

  • You lost your existing health insurance coverage
  • You moved to a new area not served by your current health plan
  • You gained a dependent through marriage, domestic partnership, birth or adoption
  • You had a change in marital status
  • You had a change in employment

If you had one of these qualifying events, and want to enroll in health insurance – get moving! The window won’t stay open for long.

If you missed the window to enroll in health insurance, and you didn’t have one of these qualifying events, then the next open enrollment period for most of us will be November 2014 – February 2015. Remember, that unlike my judo class, you can enroll for health insurance and it doesn’t have to start right away. So if you want health insurance for January 1, 2015, you can enroll in November with a start date in January. You don’t have to be like me, and wait until the last day of December to enroll.

In fact, don’t be like me. Plan ahead. Enroll early. And also, learn judo. It might come in handy.