Five Things to Know About Signing Up for Obamacare in Texas in 2017
Did you purchase health coverage through the Texas health exchange last year? If not, are you still uninsured? If you answered yes to either question, you'll want to know these important facts about the current Obamacare open enrollment period.
1. For 2017, open enrollment runs from November 1, 2017 to January 31, 2016.
For 2017, you can enroll in a new marketplace plan -- or change your existing plan -- from November 1, 2016 through January 31, 2017. If you want or need new coverage beginning January 1, you should sign up by the end of the day on December 15.
2. Automatic re-enrollment isn't as good as it sounds.
If you purchased an individual or family plan through the marketplace last year and you do nothing this year, you’ll probably be automatically re-enrolled in your current plan for 2017 if the plan is still available. Auto enrollment sounds handy, but it could lead to a number of unpleasant surprises: your monthly premium may change, your eligibility for subsidies may fall out of date. In some cases, you may even be automatically enrolled in a different plan if your insurer stops offering your existing coverage.
For all these reasons, you should be proactive during the open enrollment period. Visit HealthCare.gov on or soon after November 1 to learn about the options available to you for 2017. Update any personal or income information that’s changed during the year, then choose the plan you want.
3. Neglecting to update income information could be an expensive mistake.
As you probably know by now, the Affordable Care Act offers subsidies that may lower your monthly health insurance premiums. Most folks who applied for coverage through HealthCare.gov qualified for a subsidy. But for your financial assistance to work properly, it must be re-evaluated each year. If your income changes, your subsidy amount may rise or fall.
Be sure you’ve reported correct income information to HealthCare.gov. If you haven’t, you may not receive the financial aid for which you qualify. On the flip side, if you’ve claimed too much assistance, you may have to pay the IRS back at tax time. You don’t have to wait until open enrollment to report income changes; you’re supposed to update important information throughout the year. But open enrollment is a good time to double check your personal information and correct your HealthCare.gov files if necessary.
4. Health insurance penalties are going up.
In 2016, the tax penalty for going without insurance is $695 per adult and $347.50 per child or 2.5% of annual family income, whichever is greater, up to a maxiumum of $2,085 per household. For 2017 and beyond, the 2.5% rate will remain the same, but the flat fee amounts will be adjusted for inflation.
The only way to avoid this penalty is to sign up for a qualifying health insurance plan by January 31, 2017 -- or prove you qualify for an exemption. If you don’t, you’ll pay the price when you file your taxes.
For more information on what qualifies as health coverage under Obamacare and whether you're eligible for an exemption, see Do I Have to Get Obamacare in Texas?
5. You can get help finding the best health coverage and filling out your application.
There are many resources available to help you choose a health insurance plan and complete your application. For example, Get Covered America offers both a plan finder and a calculator to help you determine what type of coverage is right for you and whether you qualify for financial assistance. You can also seek help from a trained support specialist online, over the phone, or in person. For details, see How to Get Help From Texas’s Health Insurance Exchange.
If you want one-on-one assistance from a trained professional who can recommend a health insurance plan based on your individual circumstances, you can contact an insurance agent or broker. Unlike federally funded assistants, brokers are legally permitted to suggest the right plan for you. For more, see How An Insurance Agent or Broker Can Help You Sign Up for Obamacare or call 1-800-943-6832 to speak with a broker directly.
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