Right now is open enrollment for Obamacare. Learn how to get help paying premiums, the consequences of not enrolling, and whether or not it is even going to be around next year.
This fall’s election was quite a roller coaster ride, and it didn’t end on November 8. There were many varied responses to the election results, from rioting to crying. One that the current administration really appreciated was the surge in signups for Obamacare. On Wednesday, November 9, the day after Trump won the presidency, 100,000 people signed up for health insurance through the federal healthcare exchange.
Obamacare Open Enrollment Is Happening Now
Like with most healthcare plans offered through employers, you can’t just sign up for Obamacare at any time. You are only allowed to enroll once a year, during open enrollment. This year, open enrollment is November 1 to December 15. So, if you want health care coverage for 2017, you need to enroll in the next 3 weeks.
How To Get A Tax Credit To Help Pay Premiums
Health insurance is not cheap, and the costs are only going up. You can get a tax credit, though, to help you pay the monthly premiums on your health insurance. It is income-based, so you need to make between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level for your household size.
You can apply for the credit when you sign up for coverage and either use it immediately or receive it as a refund with your taxes. When you file your taxes, you will have to fill out a few extra forms to calculate your final tax credit. If you overestimated your credit when you enrolled, you will have to pay back the difference. If you underestimated your credit or didn’t use it all, you will receive a refund.
What If You Don’t Sign Up Or Have Coverage?
Many people, especially the young and healthy, have ignored the mandate to buy health insurance. Under Obamacare, there is a penalty for that. To avoid using the word “tax,” they call it an “individual shared responsibility payment.” For 2017, it is the higher of 2.5% of your household income or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child. The fee is calculated by month, so if you have coverage part of the year, you will only have to pay a partial penalty.
There is now a little box on Form 1040 that you have to check if you have coverage. If it’s not checked, you have to calculate your penalty and add the amount to your tax bill for the year. The IRS has a nifty online estimator to help you calculate what your penalty will be. For a couple born after 1952 with 2 children who earn $50,000 a year, it estimates a penalty of $2,085.
Is Obamacare Even Going To Be Around Next Year?
Now that the election is over, there is a lot of doubt as to how much longer Obamacare will survive. President-elect Trump has promised to dismantle it. However, he will not become president until next year. Also, things tend to move very slowly in the government, so it could take him awhile to fulfill his promises.
I don’t have a crystal ball, but I would recommend signing up for coverage before December 15 if you need it. Just go to healthcare.gov and follow the prompts. And if you don’t want coverage, use the IRS estimator and be prepared to pay the penalty at tax time. None of us know what the future holds, but it never hurts to be prepared.