Penalties await those who don’t sign up for health care soon

AUSTIN (KXAN) — People have less than a month to enroll for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Open enrollment for 2014 ends on March 31 and an Austin non-profit is trying to spread the word so people can get coverage and avoid penalties.

“We found that many people don’t realize that the deadline is March 31st to enroll in health insurance,” said Elizabeth Colvin, director of Insure Central Texas.  “They also don’t realize with the subsidies that are available, the cost of insurance can be less than what the penalty will be when they file their taxes next year.”

Volunteers with Insure Central Texas, which is part of Foundation Communities, are going to coffee shops, barber shops, nail salons, and tattoo parlors to spread to notice by word-of-mouth.

Monday morning they talked with  several people at Monkey Nest Coffee, 5353 Burnet Rd,  and explained the process.  They said even if people they talk with have insurance, they want them to pass

“I haven’t had insurance in two years and whenever I have any type of dental work it’s all out of pocket,” said Colleen McCoy who saw a sign at the coffee shop.  The 33-year-old is a self employed Pilates teacher.  She has a daughter, 11, and said she’s looked at insurance in the past but it was too expensive.

McCoy admitted that she had no clue about the March 31 deadline.

According to HealthCare.gov, if people don’t meet the deadline, they won’t be covered for the year and will have to wait to enroll in November and won’t be covered until 2015.

The government said people not only will have to pay for their own health care but will also have to pay a penalty if they don’t sign up for 2014 coverage.”

“For many people the penalty will be more than what they will pay for insurance,” said Colvin.  “They also don’t realize with the subsidies that are available the cost of insurance can be less than what the penalty will be when they file their taxes next year.”

The penalty is either 1 percent of a person’s yearly household income or $95 a person for the year.  Healthcare.gov says people will pay what ever amount is higher.

  • 1% of your yearly household income
  • $95 per person for the year and $47.50 for kids under 18

“At least with paying for insurance you’re getting health insurance so if you get into an accident or something happens to you, you have some coverage.  Without that and if you’re just paying the penalty, you’re really just getting nothing for the penalty,” said Colvin.

She said with seven private companies and 80 different plans to chose from, she understands why people get frustrated signing up.

The nonprofit said the process is confusing and is offering free help to help people enroll.  Insure Central Texas offers services in English and Spanish.  For more information times and locations click here.

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