Health Insurance Deadline: What Happens Next?


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Robert Cyr
 While state officials gear up for the last push to get residents enrolled under the Affordable Care Act for the upcoming March 31st deadline, many Latinos may wonder what happens if they don’t sign up for the exchange.

“If they miss the deadline, I don’t believe it’s too much a fault of ours,”  said Kathleen Tallarita, spokesperson for Access Health CT, adding that, “We’ve been out there, telling people about it, and we hope they’re listening.”
The ACA went into law, and “ObamaCare” and its corresponding website were launched Oct.1, mandating all eligible residents to enroll in some form of health insurance through each state’s insurance marketplace.  Those who miss the federally-mandated deadline will be subject to penalties and will not be able to enroll until later this year, officials say.
Access Health CT, the Connecticut administrative body of the ACA,  reports that 25% of the state’s estimated 380,000 uninsured are Latinos.  However, because of federal regulations on collecting data, state health exchange officials say there are no clear numbers on how many Latinos have signed up so far.
Also, according to a story in December,  http://ctln.local/2013/12/22/access-health-ct-a-slow-start-in-reaching-latinos/, December 23rd was the first of the enrollment deadlines, and the state’s health exchange and its CEO candidly admitted, their effort to reach Latinos started months after the general campaign began in July.   The Spanish language website for the exchange, which could have provided some insight on numbers, became operational just a month ago.
Many who fail to enroll by the deadline will be subject to a $95 tax penalty or one percent of their annual income, whichever is greater, said  Tallarita, but some exceptions do exist.
“Depending on circumstances, if they experience a life-changing event, they can enroll throughout the year, but if for some reason they forgot, they have to wait until the next open enrollment on Nov. 15 through Feb. 15, 2015,” said Tallarita.   Life-changing events could include job loss, insurance loss, marriage or divorce.
There is also another exemption according to Maryland Grier, spokesperson for The Connecticut Health Foundation, “People who are Medicaid eligible can enroll any time,” Grier said, “even after open enrollment closes.  This is important. The open enrollment period for 2015 coverage will begin in the fall; we know we won’t get everyone this round.”
Medicaid eligibility is based on federal poverty guidelines.The 2014 federal poverty guidelines for a single person is $11,670 a year, or $23,850 for a family of four, according o data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Another policy associated with the ACA, which was mandated to be functional on Oct. 1 but is not expected to be fully implemented until late next year, is the “No Wrong Door” initiative, which reported on recently, http://ctln.local/2014/03/10/no-wrong-door-for-health-insurance-latinos-stand-too-gain.  The NWD initiative “is a system that would allow consumers, who may ‘knock’ on different doors for health insurance coverage – some of which may not be opened – to be seamlessly routed to the program that best meets their needs.”
It would facilitate the enrollment process and is expected to cut the number of uninsured Latinos in half, from more than 20 percent to just over 10 percent, and according to the Connecticut Health Foundation, the “No Wrong Door” initiative would prevent 36,000 people from losing health insurance coverage for at least part of the year.