Obamacare health insurance enrollments surged by almost one million enrollees during the first four weeks of December, according to officials at the White House. The new federal health insurance website — HealthCare.gov — had gotten off to a rocky start, only enrolling 27,000 Americans in October and 125,000 in November. December’s big surge colors the entire Affordable Care Act in a much more positive light, and augurs well for the future of the program more generally.

obamacare

Obamacare means better health insurance

One of the main ideas behind the ACA (Obamacare) was to give more Americans access to better health care. The program was designed to dramatically increase access to Medicaid federal-funded health insurance for low-income individuals, and to make good-quality health insurance focused on primary care affordable for all Americans.

Key Obamacare dates

January 1, 2014

Health insurance coverage starts on January 1st for those who signed up through state’s Marketplace by Dec. 24 and has paid their premium. Individuals can no longer be denied insurance for preexisting conditions, and all health insurance policies must provide reasonable coverage including access to preventive care and birth control.

The “individual mandate” also kicks in on New Year’s Day, and those who don’t have at least the “minimum essential coverage” are going to have to pay a fine of $95 or 1 percent of an individual’s taxable income, whichever number is higher. The deadline to avoid the individual mandate penalty is March 31.

January 10, 2014

The first month’s premium will be due on Jan. 10th, 2014. Insurers may extend the premium due date because of the technical issues surrounding Healthcare.gov, but check with your individual insurer to make sure.

March 31, 2014

You must sign up for health insurance by March 31 to avoid the penalty if you plan to sign up through the federal marketplace or one of the 14 state exchanges. The White House has already extended the penalty date by 90 days, and given the problems with the roll out of HealthCare.gov, it is quite possible they will offer another extension.

November 15, 2014

The second-year start of enrollment was moved from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15 to provide insurers more time to analyze claims from the ACA (Obamacare)’s first year, and hopefully lead to lower premiums in 2015

2015 and beyond

Employers with more than 50 workers will be required to pay a tax penalty of $2,000 per employee if they don’t offer health insurance plans to their employees. This mandate was due to take effect in 2014, but it was delayed by a year to give smaller businesses more time to prepare.

As of April 15, 2015, those who were not insured in 2014 will have to pay the above-mentioned fine. If an individual is still uninsured in 2015, the penalty increases to a minimum of $325. The fine for not being covered increases to $695 in 2016.