Coffee Break #1 – “Oh No, Its December 24th – Am I Too Late to Sign Up for Medical Benefits????”

“Oh No, Its December 24th – Am I Too Late to Sign Up for Medical Benefits????”

Today we are excited to launch our new Your Work Matters “Coffee Break” series where we will discuss topics that impact your daily work environment and that we hope will help facilitate positive dialogue in your workplace.

We kick today’s “Coffee Break” off with an update on the Affordable Care Act aka “Obamacare.” December 24, 2013 is a critical date because this is the last day for open enrollment for all individuals who want to purchase healthcare insurance through the federal or a state government healthcare exchange in order for that insurance to become effective for January 1, 2014. However, due to glitches in launching the healthcare exchange, the federal government has extended the deadline for individuals to purchase insurance by 48-72 hours and possibly longer. According to the White House, individuals simply have to show they attempted to sign-up by December 24th and could not do so due to technical glitches.

So it is not necessarily too late! To find out if you can sign up for healthcare insurance still, visit the federal government website at www.healthcare.gov or you state healthcare exchange website or office. For example, the healthcare exchange in California is Covered California at www.coveredca.com.

To remind you, some of the key elements of the Affordable Care Act are as follows:

The law was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010

The purpose of the law is to provide affordable health coverage for everyone and to protect against abusive insurance company policies.

The 1st phase of the law takes effect January 1, 2014 – uninsured individuals can purchase health insurance through the federal and state healthcare exchanges. The federal healthcare exchange can be found at www.healthcare.gov.

Currently, 33 states have healthcare exchanges – you must check with your state to determine if it has an exchange.

As noted above, in order to have medical insurance in place by January 1, 2014, uninsured individuals must purchase healthcare insurance by December 24, 2013. The federal government has extended the deadline and some states.

The deadline to purchase healthcare insurance after January 1, 2014 for the year 2014 is March 31, 2014.

With some exceptions, all Americans must have health insurance by March 31, 2014 or pay a penalty for not having insurance – 1% of the individual’s annual income or $95.00, whichever is greater.

Individuals who have medical insurance through their employer or who are on Medicare or Medical are not required to purchase healthcare insurance through the exchange.

The following individuals will not be penalized for not having healthcare insurance:

  • individuals who would have to pay more than 8% of their annual income for health insurance
  • individuals with income below the threshold for filing income taxes
  • individuals who have religious exceptions
  • undocumented immigrants
  • incarcerated individuals
  • Native American tribe members

Insurance companies can no longer deny insurance coverage to individuals based on pre-existing conditions.

Preventive services are free (i.e. annual check-ups and basic health screenings)

Young adults up to age 26 can stay on their parents’ health insurance plans

Small businesses are eligible to purchase insurance for their employees through the healthcare exchange. Small businesses of 25 or less “full-time” employees, with an average salary of $50,000 may be eligible for tax credits.

Remember – knowledge is power! Even if you have doubts about the law, we encourage you to at least call, go to the exchange website or do some research to learn more about how the law impacts you and your family.

Thanks for joining in this Coffee Break! Please feel free to continue the discussion by responding to our blog – www.your-workmatters.com below.

By: Angela J. Reddock
Employment & Labor Law Attorney
Blogger at www.your-workmatters.com
Your Work Matters Blog, Digest 1 – December 24, 2013

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