Contributed by K.T. McKee
So open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) is over. More than 19,000 Alaskans signed up for 2017 coverage during the last few months and that’s awesome. However, many people will still be able to apply for coverage this year if they fall into certain income or circumstance categories.
For Alaskans who were covered with a Moda plan through healthcare.gov in 2016, you still have time to shop online for a Premera Blue Cross policy through your Marketplace account for coverage in 2017. There is a Special Enrollment Period open to you through March 1, 2017, and I’d be happy to help with that.
Those who qualify for Medicaid due to their annual household income can apply any time of the year through healthcare.gov or at a local public assistance office year round. There isn’t a deadline for Medicaid. And some people can still qualify for a Premera Blue Cross policy with tax credits during special enrollment periods if they’ve had certain “life changes” and their adjusted gross household income is within the range for tax credits that help cover monthly premiums.
If you lose your health coverage due to the loss of a job, get married or divorced (and lose coverage due to the divorce), move from another state where you'd been enrolled, or add to your family, you likely will qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) and be able to sign up for coverage through healthcare.gov. You can’t have any other coverage (from a spouse’s job, Medicare or VA) and you still must meet income qualifications to be able to get the tax credits. You also must apply within sixty days of the qualifying event to be eligible for an SEP.
Speaking of tax credits, if you were covered through the ACA in 2016 and received tax credits that helped cover your monthly premiums, you will need the 1095-A form (should have received it in the mail by now) in order to fill out the 8962 form to reconcile the tax credits. If your income was lower than you had put on your ACA application, you might have some tax credits coming back to you, but if you made more money in 2016 than you had estimated on your application and you didn’t report the change at some point last year, you might owe more taxes. You can get more information about that on healthcare.gov or from the IRS or by calling the healthcare.gov call center at 1-800-318-2596 or by asking a tax professional.
Some people also will qualify for an exemption from the tax penalty. There are hardship exemptions, income exemptions and others. More information on what qualifies for an exemption and how to apply for it can be found on healthcare.gov as well.
As for the possible changes coming to the Affordable Care Act, no one is sure what that entails and when it might occur. The latest from our new administration is that it probably won’t happen in 2017. There could be a few changes to the law this year, but it appears that those who signed up for coverage during open enrollment (Nov. 1st - Jan. 31st) and those who qualify for a Special Enrollment Period this year will still be covered at least through 2017.
As always, if you need help with applying for coverage through healthcare.gov or simply have questions, there are several of us available in Mat-Su. I can be reached at 891-6940 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Mat-Su Health Services, Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, Sunshine Clinic and the Alaska Native Primary Care Clinic also have certified assisters available.
K.T. McKee is a Mat-Su Navigator Specialist for the Affordable Care Act who has been helping Valley residents get covered since 2013.