Mark your calendar. Credit: Creatas Mark your calendar.
Credit: Creatas

 

Every week, Archelle Georgiou, MD, strategic adviser at Healthgrades, will explain one facet of the Affordable Care Act.

 

There are two important dates you should keep in mind regarding the Affordable Care Act:

 

Dec. 15, 2013: This is the last day that you can buy insurance on your state’s health insurance exchange ifyou want to have health insurance coverage on Jan. 1, 2014. This is especially important if you are one of the 10 million people receiving letters from their current health insurers informing you that your coverage is being terminated at the end of the year.

 

March 31, 2014: There are two reasons to pay attention to this date.

1) This is the last day to sign up for health insurance coverage on your state’s exchange. Yes, you will still be able to buy health insurance outside of the exchange after this date, but if you are eligible for a subsidy, you will forfeit that money for 2013 and have to wait until the exchanges reopen in October 2014.

2) March 31 is also the last day that you can enroll AND avoid the Affordable Care Act tax penalty for not having insurance. The tax penalty for not having health insurance is a minimum of $95 but can go as high as 1 percent of your taxable income, whichever is greater.

Yes, the exchanges are off to a rough start, especially in the 36 states that are relying on the federal government’s technology platform. So, what do you do if you can’t sign in to your state’s exchange or don’t trust that it’s working properly? Use the time between now and Dec. 15 to do your homework.

Think ahead about the health care you may need over the next year. Make sure you do your research to know what doctors and hospitals you want to have access to with “in network” benefits. Then, spend time online comparing the benefits, premium costs, out-of-pocket expenses and most importantly, the network of doctors and hospitals included under various plan options. Make a smart and informed decision.