Final Countdown: March 31 Deadline Approaching for Health Care Marketplace Enrollment
By Mark Ciaramitaro
Vice President, Health Enrollment Services at H&R Block
The deadline for securing health care coverage as a requirement of the Affordable Care Act is quickly approaching. Americans without health insurance have less than four weeks to secure coverage and avoid a tax penalty. H&R Block has been helping our clients enroll for health care coverage for the past five months since open enrollment began and is reminding all consumers that H&R Block has health care enrollment services available nationwide that can answer their questions and get them enrolled.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to health care; everyone has a unique individual situation, and everyone has important questions about what is best for them. For that reason, H&R Block has licensed health care advisors at www.helpth.com and 1-800-HRBLOCK who can answer all the questions consumers may have. In the past five months, advisors have seen a few common questions come from clients like:
- What kind of a tax penalty will I face if I don’t get a health plan?
- Am I eligible for any benefits or credits to help pay for my health plan?
- How do I know if a plan is right for me?
To help answer these questions, here are some insights consumers should know about when thinking about enrolling in health care coverage:
(1) Know the tax implications
One of the most common question is about the potential tax penalty. Most people are surprised to learn that it may be more than the $95 per person they may have heard about. For many, the penalty will amount to 1 percent of their household income, which may be a much higher number.
For example, a family of four earning $70,000 a year would face a $497 penalty – $212 more than the maximum flat rate penalty. Looking ahead to 2016, the penalty will be more than $2,000 for that same family.
(2) Get the details on available credits
People also have been caught unaware at the amount of advanced tax credits they can receive to help cover monthly insurance premiums. In addition to these credits, many are unaware that they may qualify for cost sharing reductions, which lowers out of pocket costs for deductibles, coinsurance and co-payments.
Many people have found they can purchase much better plan with lower deductibles than originally thought as a result of these programs. Those who aren’t getting this information are essentially leaving money on the table, which is why it is more important than ever this year to not go it alone when it comes to planning for and filing your taxes.
That’s why H&R Block offers a free tax and health care review – where taxpayers can learn more about the potential penalties or credits that apply to their situation.
(3) Understand enrollment options
There are many health insurance options available to consumers, and just as many avenues to access information about those plans. However, not all come with personalized advice, and even fewer enable a consumer to compare all plans being offered both on and off the federal or state marketplace. Finding a resource that has all the information is the first step, and H&R Block is one place that has that information – free, and unbiased.
For those reviewing plan options, it is important to remember that all plans are not created equal. Consumers should make sure to look beyond topline cost of the monthly premium and review other important elements, such as:
- What are the deductible and co-pay obligations?
- Does the plan include medicine someone is taking for pre-existing condition?
- What hospitals and doctors are included?
- Will dental and vision be included or is that an extra cost?
Understanding these key features will ensure they know the true cost of the plan and all potential out-of-pocket expenses. In doing this, consumers can make their insurance work for them instead of them working for their insurance.
Finally, remember that you need to enroll by March 15 for coverage to begin April 1, or March 31 for coverage that will begin May 1. If consumers don’t enroll by that final deadline, they may likely face a tax penalty on their tax returns next year. To avoid that and get the answers they need, consumers speak with an H&R Block health care advisor at 800-HRBLOCK or visit helpth.com today. It’s free, they don’t need to be current or past H&R Block clients, and don’t need to provide tax information.
From the Newsroom:
Richard Gartland, senior tax professional with H&R Block, talks about taxes and health care.