By Christopher Curry
The Gainesville Sun
While the third year of Affordable Care Act enrollment continues through the end of January, a key deadline is approaching Tuesday.
The date is important for two reasons. First, it is the last day to to sign up to have health coverage through an ACA insurance plan in place Jan. 1, said Lauren Vagelakos, who oversees the nonprofit WellFlorida Council’s ACA navigator program in North Central Florida.
Anyone signing up after Tuesday must wait until Feb. 1 for their coverage to begin.
Second, Tuesday is also the cutoff for anyone already enrolled in an ACA plan to shop around and change plans. Otherwise, they will be automatically re-enrolled to avoid a lapse in coverage.
Vagelakos said they will still have until the Jan. 31 end of open enrollment to switch to another plan but that could raise complications. For instance, they will lose anything they paid toward their deductible in January under the old plan.
State insurance and federal health officials have encouraged those enrolled in an ACA plan to shop around and see if they can find comparable coverage for a lower cost.
A Department of Health and Human Services report from early November showed that Florida consumers who re-enrolled in the ACA marketplace last year and switched to a plan with the same level of coverage saved $39 per month, or $465 annually, after the taxpayer-funded tax credits that helped them buy coverage were factored in.
The Gainesville LINKS and the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida have organized an enrollment fair today from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. at the Santa Fe College Center for Innovation and Economic Development (CIED), 530 W. University Ave. Navigators, including some fluent in Spanish, will be at the event to help people sign up for coverage through HealthCare.gov.
Earlier this week, the U.S Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) released numbers showing that 598,279 Floridians had enrolled or re-enrolled in ACA enrollment from Nov. 1 through Dec. 5. That was the most of any state using the federal ACA marketplace instead of a state-established exchange.
At the same time, several hundred thousand Floridians who would qualify for taxpayer-funded subsidies to buy insurance have not signed up for an ACA plan. Before the start of this enrollment cycle, an estimated 825,000 of the 2.8 million uninsured Floridians were in that situation, according to Kaiser Family Foundation research.
Those who are not exempt from the ACA individual mandate and do not get coverage will face a more significant financial hit during the third year of enrollment.
The penalty is rising from either 2 percent of household income or $325 to 2.5 percent of household income or $695, whichever is higher.
Health care help
What: Affordable Care Act enrollment event
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. today
Where: Santa Fe College Center for Innovation and Economic Development (CIED), 530 W. University Ave.
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