If your senses are getting numbed by Obamacare’s endless deadline drumbeat, let us direct your attention to arguably the most important date of all: March 31, 2014.
March 31 is important not only because it’s the deadline for getting coverage in order to avoid penalties for being uninsured. It’s also the end of this round of open enrollment, meaning it’s your last chance this year for getting insurance coverage as an individual (though of course there are exceptions that will allow you to get individual coverage later in the year, exceptions such as getting a divorce or losing a job that had benefits).
But just as you don’t have to wait for April 15 to file your income taxes, you likewise don’t have to delay signing up health insurance until March 31. Anytime between now and then you can enroll through the state insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, where you might qualify for subsidized coverage, or you can buy insurance outside of the exchange through brokers or directly from insurance companies.
If you sign up through Healthplanfinder before the end of March, here’s when your coverage will start (deadlines can vary for plans bought outside of the exchange — check with your insurance company):
- Enroll and pay by Jan. 23, your coverage starts Feb. 1
- Enroll and pay by Feb. 23, your coverage starts March 1
- Enroll and pay by March 23, your coverage starts April 1
- Enroll and pay by March 31, your coverage starts May 1
With all of the emphasis on the exchanges, don’t get confused by the fact that individual insurance isn’t the only game in town. You don’t have to buy insurance through the exchange to avoid a penalty — you just need to be insured.More