1. Take advantage of the grace period
This special break was created for anyone who began enrolling in an insurance marketplace by Monday’s deadline but didn’t finish. That includes people stymied by website outages or overwhelmed phone lines, missing information on applications, and other problems or confusion.
Those who started an application on HealthCare.gov by March 31 should log on and finish it as soon as possible.
People applying online will have until April 15 to finish, administration spokesman Aaron Albright said yesterday. Paper applications will be accepted until Monday.
Consumers will have to attest that they had tried to enroll by March 31.
For most people, going through a marketplace opens the door to lower costs. Those who use the grace period will get coverage starting on May 1 and won’t owe a fine.
2. Use a special enrollment period
The government also is offering extensions for problems that might have prevented people from signing up through a marketplace: natural disasters, domestic abuse, serious illness, mistakes by application counselors, or errors by insurance companies.
To seek a “special enrollment period,” contact the federal call center at 1-800-318-2596 or your state marketplace and explain what went wrong. If the extension is approved, that brings another 60 days to enroll.
Also, at any time during the year, certain life events — such as changing jobs, getting married or divorced, or becoming a parent — open a 60-day window to sign up for marketplace coverage.
3. Sign up for Medicaid
Those who qualify still can enroll in Medicaid — there’s no deadline. Eligibility is based on income and varies from state to state. The main beneficiaries of the change are adults earning up to about $16,100 per year, with no children living at home.
4. Buy insurance outside the marketplaces
Buyers can always go directly to an insurance company, but it might be expensive. Plans bought outside the marketplaces don’t come with government subsidies that hold down the cost for people with low or midlevel incomes. But they do include the law’s consumer protections.
Even after the deadline, buying a plan that meets the law’s essential coverage standard reduces the penalty owed, which is based on the months without coverage.
5. Get ready for next time
Open enrollment for 2015 is scheduled to begin on Nov. 15 and run just three months. That’s another chance to get covered or switch into a plan with subsidies.
Something to think about: The uninsured penalty next year rises to 2 percent of income or $325 per adult and $162.50 per child.