November 15, 2014 is the first day of open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act for the 2015 year. The Affordable Care Act, also unofficially known as Obamacare, was enacted in 2010 in order to provide more affordable health care insurance to Americans.

Here are the important dates to remember:

  • Open enrollment period begins November 15, 2014 and ends February 15, 2015.

  • If you want your coverage to be effective January 1, 2015, you should enroll by December 15, 2014.

  • If you want to change the coverage plan you purchased in 2014 for a new plan in 2015, you must also enroll by December 15, 2014.

This will be the second year that open enrollment will take place and it’s important that we all be aware of the repercussions if we choose to opt out of enrollment.

If you’re an employer, the penalties you’ll face in year two will finally kick in if you choose not to provide employee health coverage. If you’re a business owner with 100 or more employees who work more than 30 hours per week, you’ll have to provide them with coverage or you’ll pay a fine of anywhere from $2000 to $3000 per employee (for all but your first 30 employees). If you’re a smaller business owner with less than 50 employees, you’ll have to abide by these policies by 2016.

If you’re an individual, your penalties will increase if you opt out of coverage. In 2014, the penalty for an individual who did not sign up for coverage during open enrollment (except for an individual who met the “qualifying event” requirements) was $95 per adult or 1% of the household’s income, whichever was greater. Now however, if you’re not enrolled for 2015, you will face a $325 penalty per adult or 2% of your household income, whichever is greater.

Remember, for every month you’re without insurance coverage for the 2015 year until the next enrollment period (in late 2015), you’ll be paying a penalty. The only time you’ll be able to enroll for coverage outside of the enrollment period is if you meet the requirement for a qualifying event. This usually means you have lost health coverage because of a certain event; the most common are the death of your spouse, loss of job, or divorce.

Keep in mind:

  • Although this is the second open enrollment period, it is the first renewal period for individuals who currently hold coverage. If you held coverage during 2014, you’re signed up for automatic renewal; however, make sure to login to your state’s marketplace because you may find some lower-premium options.

  • To avoid any penalties, make sure to pick a health insurance plan by December 15, 2014 at the latest.

It’ll be clearer during year two whether Obamacare is really helping in increasing the number of Americans with healthcare coverage. Make sure that enrolling for coverage is one of your top priorities as 2014 comes to a close.

About the author

Zoya Afshar

Zoya Afshar is a Licensed Attorney and Head of Content at UpCounsel. Prior to joining UpCounsel, Zoya worked in a variety of fields of law including Bankruptcy, Criminal Defense, and Employment Law. Her love for all things media and marketing related began in her undergraduate years when she worked for CNN's Larry King Live.

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