Money & Policy

6 Obamacare Signup Tips for Vincibles

Here's what boomers need to know as the enrollment deadline nears

The Obama Administration is making a huge push to get “Young Invincibles” to signup for Obamacare by tonight’s midnight signup deadline. But what about the Vincibles — Americans in their late 40s, 50s and early 60s?
Though they haven’t received nearly the same attention, boomers actually comprise most of those who’ve enrolled in the federal and state health-care marketplaces.
More than half (53 percent) of those who enrolled between Oct. 1, 2013 and March 1, 2014 are age 45 to 64 (not precisely the boomers’ ages, but it’s the way the Department of Health and Human Services break down the numbers). A likely reason: Many of them have one or more pre-existing conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure, creaky knees…), making them prime candidates for the new health insurance rules.

(MORE: Boomers and Obamacare)
6 Obamacare Signup Tips for Boomers

If you’re an uninsured boomer and still haven’t signed up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, here’s what you need to know:
1. You can sign up online, over the phone or in person. The federal website, of course, is HealthCare.gov. You can find links to state health insurance exchanges here.
If you want to enroll by phone, call 800-318-2596 for individual coverage or 800-706-7893 if you have small business questions.
To find a local “navigator” who can help you enroll, go to HealthCare.gov and enter your city and state or ZIP code. You’ll then get a list of organizations, with phone numbers, addresses and links to their websites.
2. Prepare for delays and enrollment snafus. The HealthCare.gov site was down for a bit this morning, due to the massive number of procrastinators trying to get on (there were two million visitors over the weekend). This morning, the site was running this alert: “During times of especially high demand, you may be queued to begin your online Marketplace application to ensure the best possible shopping experience.”
Some applicants have been experiencing long waits to reach a federal call center, according to The Wall Street Journal.

(MORE: When a Money Writer's Health Policy Was Canceled)
3. The March 31 midnight deadline doesn’t apply to everyone. Yes, it is when open enrollment for 2014 coverage will close for the 36 states where the federal government is running the enrollment website. (Open enrollment for 2015 runs from Nov. 15, 2014 to Feb. 15, 2015.) But states that are managing their own exchanges are setting their own deadlines.
And the Obama administration has extended the deadline for people who’ve started applications but didn’t finish them. You have until April 7 if you began a paper application and there’s no set deadline if you’re in the process of enrolling on HealthCare.gov.
You can also apply after the March 31 deadline if you have a “qualifying life event” such as marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of a child or the loss of a job or if you have a “hardship exemption,” such as facing foreclosure or a victim of a fire or flood.
4. If you’re self-employed, the way you’d buy insurance depends on how many employees you have. If you have no employees, you can purchase coverage through the Individual Health Insurance Marketplace.
But if you run a small business and have between one and 50 full-time employees, you need to use the Small Business Health Options Program Marketplace (SHOP). If you have under 25 employees, you may qualify for tax credits worth up to 50 percent of your premium costs.
5. The penalty — actually a tax — you’ll pay if you don’t have insurance will depend on your income and the size of your family. For 2014, the amount is the greater of 1 percent of your household income above the “filing threshold” ($10,150 for individuals; $20,300 for married couples filing jointly) or $95 per adult plus $47.50 per child, up to a maximum of $285 per family.

The penalty, which you'd pay the Internal Revenue Service when filing your 2014 tax return, is capped at the average cost of the yearly premium for a “bronze” health plan; that’s expected to be $3,600 per adult plus $1,900 per child, according to the Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution. You’ll be exempt from the penalty if you’d have to pay more than 8 percent of your household income for the lowest-price plan.

The Tax Policy Center website has a good calculator to let you figure out how much your penalty would be.
6. You can sign up your adult children if they're under age 26. The Affordable Care Act says that if your plan covers children, you can keep them on it, or add them on, until they turn 26. They don't need to be living with you and you don't need to be supporting them financially. They may think they're invincible, but you know better.

RIchard Eisenberg, editor at Next Avenue wearing a suit jacket in front of a teal background.
By Richard Eisenberg
Richard Eisenberg is the Senior Web Editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and Managing Editor for the site. He is the author of How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis and has been a personal finance editor at Money, Yahoo, Good Housekeeping, and CBS MoneyWatch. Follow him on Twitter.

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