The deadline to enroll in health insurance is approaching and students not covered on a health plan in 2015 are going to have a hefty fine on this year’s taxes.
People not insured must enroll in a health insurance plan by Feb. 15 to be covered for 2015. After the deadline, there is not an opportunity to enroll in the health insurance marketplace until next year.
“It think it’s important to enroll,” said Lisa Carlson, director of planning and regulation for Sanford Health Plan. “My fear (is that) first-time students will realize this when they file their taxes. By the time April rolls around, it will be too late.
After the Affordable Care Act was first introduced to Americans last year, a new question has been added when filing taxes. It asks, ‘Did you have health insurance in 2014?’
If people did not have health insurance in 2014, they will find a tax penalty of one percent of yearly household income or $95 per person — whichever is higher. Young adults not covered in 2014 now have to pay the penalty, no exceptions.
However, a few days are left to enroll for health insurance in 2015. Not being insured in 2015 has much higher tax penalties than 2014. If a person is not insured in 2015, they will have a tax penalty of 2 percent of their yearly household income or $325 per person — whichever is higher.
People under the age of 26 can be covered under their parent’s insurance plan. Carlson said she is seeing many parents start to kick their children off their health insurance.
“We do see more and more students going off on their own,” Carlson said.
If parents release their children from their plan or their child turns 26 this year, they will have a special period to enroll in health insurance.
For everyone else, next week is the last chance to enroll for the year.
“Now is the time to shop for an affordable plan at HealthCare.gov,” said Ben Wakana, spokesperson for the federal Department of Health and Human Services. “Eight out of 10 people can find coverage for $100 or less a month with tax credits through the marketplace.”
There are a few options to get insured. Some employers may offer health insurance to part-time employees. If that is not the case, then HealthCare.gov is the next option.
“That is the marketplace,” Carlson said. “You go there, you enter your zip code. You can basically window shop or apply there.”
Being under the age of 30 qualifies students for the catastrophic health insurance plan. It is a plan with low monthly premiums, but a high deductible.
“The reason a lot of students like those high deductibles is they know they are healthy and it is probably a really significant deal,” Carlson said.
Young adults can also qualify for financial aid that makes the cost of health insurance even less.
“Eighty seven percent of people who selected 2015 plans through HealthCare.gov in the first month of open enrollment got financial assistance to help lower the cost of premiums,” Wakana said.
The other options HHS recommends for young adults are not applicable for USD students. The South Dakota Board of Regents discontinued its Avera MyHealth Insurance Plan at the beginning of this school year.
The SDBOR said “due to the significant increase in the proposed premiums” they were discontinuing the plan.
Medicaid coverage could also be an option for students, but it’s difficult to get. South Dakota chose not to expand Medicaid with the Affordable Care Act, which gives residents limited opportunities for eligibility.
“The nice thing about health care reform, it did mandate coverage for preventative care,” Carlson said. “College age students can get annual physical exams and pap smears for women.”
The preventative care mandate provides coverage for domestic violence-related issues, alcohol abuse and smoking cessation.
“If you leave those things unaddressed, they are often going to lull,” Carlson said. “And they could cause other issues.”
Although it was a highly politicized debate, the mandate to have health insurance is law. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled the individual mandate was constitutional.
It hasn’t stopped Republicans from voting against the law. The House of Representatives voted last week to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as ObamaCare.
The Associated Press reports the House has voted more than 50 times to repeal the law. The odds of that happening are slim even with a slight Republican majority in the Senate, and President Obama has said he would veto any repeal.
“Before the Affordable Care Act, young adults struggled to get health insurance because, like most uninsured Americans, they just couldn’t afford high premiums,” Wakana said.