Affordable Care Act deadline not just for uninsured

  • Dan Kessler, an independent health and life insurance broker, talks on the phone with a client in his home office in Santa Rosa, on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

The March 31 Affordable Care Act deadline has local insurance agents and health coverage officials scrambling to get out what they say is a crucial message that seems to have been lost in the federal law's rollout.

The open enrollment deadline isn't just for those those seeking coverage through state and federally run health exchanges. It applies to all individual and family health plans, including those purchased outside the state's Covered California insurance marketplace.

That means private insurers like Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield and Kaiser will not accept applications after March 31, unless you qualify for a special enrollment period.

Local insurance agents and brokers say the barrage of Obamacare publicity has left some people thinking the deadline only applies to subsidized insurance.

"There's very little advertising or notice out there that says if you don't qualify for Covered California, the deadline applies to you too," said Dan Kessler, a Santa Rosa-based licensed independent broker.

"If you're a person who already knows that you're above the income qualifications, you're not paying attention to the ads," he said.

It's a new world under President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, there was no enrollment period in the individual health insurance market. People buying health insurance for themselves and their families could sign up at any time of the year, as long as they weren't rejected for pre-existing conditions.

The new deadline for the individual market is part of Obamacare's individual mandate and applies, with a few exceptions, to all who do not have insurance through their employer or a government subsidized program such as Medicare or Medi-Cal, California's version of the federal Medicaid program.

If you don't enroll this year you get a penalty levied on your federal income tax at the end of the year.

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