The March 31 deadline to register for healthcare insurance is fast approaching!
This is the final week to purchase coverage in the insurance marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act.
If you are not registered by March 31, you will face penalties in 2015 of $95 per uninsured adult or one percent of the household income, whichever is higher.
The marketplace is also the only place where you can claim any federal subsidies to help defray the cost of your premiums. For example, a health care advocate at the AARP says assistance is available for a family of 4 making $94,000 or less. You need to research what options are available for you and your family.
The Importance of Getting Covered
Healthcare advocates also say you never know when you might face a medical crisis.
"None of us know when we're going to go out for a run and we're going to step in a pothole, or nobody plans to get appendicitis, but it happens to people every single day," said Nicole Duritz at AARP.
She also warned emergency medical bills can add up quickly.
"In America, you can go to the emergency room and get care. No one will be turned away, but you do not walk out of that emergency room free and clear. You'll have bills that will follow you sometimes for years to come."
Receiving Help with Registration
Do you have questions on how to get covered? Local help is available. Madiha Tariq is the Manager of Public Health Programs at ACCESS, one of four health navigators in the state of Michigan helping people register for health insurance.
She said ACCESS helped over 7,000 people get insurance by February, and they have continued to assist people throughout the month of March.
"We will stay open the last weekend before the deadline," Tariq said.
March 31st falls on a Monday, so the last weekend could be a busy time for health navigators around the state.
The Bottom Line
If you don't register before March 31, you will not be able to apply again until November 15, and that coverage won't begin until January 1, 2015.
"You don't know if you're going to get sick," said Duritz. "The peace of mind of knowing if something does happen to me or to my child or loved one, I have a place to go to get the care that I need."
You can sign up at https://www.healthcare.gov/. In addition to the healthcare website, you can call 1-800-318-2596.
For more information on ACCESS, visit www.accesscommunity.org.
Other healthcare navigators include: