Final Call For Questions On Health Insurance As Deadline Looms

Katherine Streeter for NPRi i

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Katherine Streeter for NPR

There’s just one week left for most people to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. And as people race to meet the deadline, they still have questions about the law, and the sign-up process.

“Is there a deadline to enroll in a health plan?” asks Josephine Ilog of Manteca, Calif. “And what happens if a person misses that deadline?”

The deadline for this open enrollment period is next Monday, March 31. And while previous deadlines have been a little fluid, the Obama administration, including the president himself, has been firm that this deadline is really the deadline.

This affects not just the health exchanges. After March 31 you won’t be able to buy individual health insurance at all unless you have some special circumstance during the year, such as losing your job, getting married or moving. If you miss the deadline you will have to wait until the next open enrollment period. That’s not until November. And that insurance won’t start until next January.

So if you’re uninsured and you can afford insurance, you need to get signed up before next Monday or you could find yourself paying a penalty with next year’s taxes for not having insurance.

However, the March 31 deadline does not apply to public programs like Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. If you are eligible for those, you can enroll

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