It’s tax season, and while filing, many people may be realizing that they never got around to signing up for health insurance.
And that can come with a price tag. This year is the first year people can be penalized for not being insured under the Affordable Care Act, but this year’s fee is small in comparison to next year’s fine.
The fine increases from $95 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is greater per adult to $325 or 2 percent of your income, whichever is greater per adult, for tax year 2015.
“This is the first time people are going to see tangible consequences for not having health insurance coverage in terms of fines,” said Cliff Clark, MHP Salud’s Program Director with the Navigator Program.
Some people are surprised to realize that they owe these fines.
In response, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) created a six-week special enrollment period for individuals and families who did not have health coverage in 2014, are subject to the fee when they file their 2014 taxes and who were unaware or did not understand the implications of this new requirement.
For Cliff Clark, that means people are heading in to MHP Salud’s Texas office.
“People are coming in and they have been since learning about this special enrollment period,” he said. “People want to know if they qualify for this special enrollment period and they’re not quite sure, so we can screen them.”
Qualifying people who enroll in health insurance coverage on or before April 15th will have their coverage go into effect on May 1, 2015. Those who enroll after April 15th, will have coverage starting on June 1st. However, in both cases they will still be paying the tax fine for 2014. If they enroll in health insurance during the special enrollment period though, they will avoid the harsher fines when they file their 2015 taxes.
Because tax law can be complicated, Clark suggests consumers who find themselves owing the fine find out if they’re eligible for enrolling in health insurance during this special enrollment period.
Though the process can be confusing, Clark says the importance of obtaining health insurance is clear.
“God forbid something happens to you and you don’t have insurance, you could really be put out financially, and that’s the whole concept of insurance, to protect you from those worse case scenarios,” he said. “We’re looking to close the gap around uninsured Latinos in this country and uninsured people in Texas, and that’s our mission.”
How to get more information about the special enrollment period:
In Texas’ Rio Grande Valley: Call MHP Salud. We can screen you, help you with the application locally in person, and help you enroll in a health insurance plan.
Outside Texas’ Rio Grande Valley: If you don’t like using the internet, you can call the call center. If you like using the internet, you can go to healthcare.gov or the Spanish version, cuidadodesalud.gov, and screen yourself.