Obamacare deadline extended to Christmas Eve, exemptions available

Healthcare.gov launched Oct. 1, 2013.

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

The deadline to sign up for a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act has been extended to Tuesday, Dec. 24, the Obama administration announced Monday, Dec. 23.

Exemptions are available, however, giving those who haven’t signed up for a plan more time without penalty.

A hardship exemption is available for those who have had existing policies canceled and experienced problems with the Obamacare website, Healthcare.gov.

A good-faith exemption will also extend the deadline for those who have made other verified attempts to enroll, Obama officials said in a statement.

It is not known, however, how the government will determine what constitutes “good faith” or how the attempts will be verified.

The initial deadline to sign up for Obamacare was Dec. 15, but was extended after the federal website failed to function as millions attempted to enroll.

Republicans continue to resist the program, claiming the website has only confused users. The GOP may not be entirely wrong, as hundreds of thousands have had their coverage cancelled by their existing insurance companies and unable to find replacement policies. Others have been automatically enrolled in more expensive programs.

The president said the program–and the website–are moving forward despite early challenges.

“The law is working,” President Obama said. “If you don’t have health insurance, go right now and sign up. If you do it before December 23rd, you can be covered on the first day of the New Year. … I’m asking you to spread the word about getting covered.”

Coverage obtained by Dec. 24 will begin Jan. 1.

The open enrollment period to sign up for Obamacare ends March 31, 2014. That means those without coverage have time to obtain health insurance in 2014 without penalty. The tax penalty for not obtaining insurance is 1 percent of annual income or $95, whichever is higher. There is also a $47.50 penalty for children younger than 18. The maximum first-year penalty is $285.

In 2015, the penalty will be 2 percent of annual income, or $325 per person. In 2016, those without coverage will be fined 2.5 percent of their income, or $695 per person. After 2016, fines will be adjusted with the rate of inflation.

Coverage obtained after Dec. 24 and before March 31 will begin May 1, 2014.

Posted Dec. 23, 2013

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