'If you sign up for insurance by the end of March, you will not face a penalty,' the White House said late Wednesday. Originally, the Obamacare law had been interpreted as giving people until Feb. 15, 2014, to have health coverage. Calls mount, including by Democrats, to give folks more time.
The Obama administration has clarified the deadline by which Americans must sign up for health insurance to avoid paying a penalty. That deadline is in fact March 31, not Feb. 15, according to guidance released by the White House Wednesday night.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare,” allows Americans to be uninsured for three consecutive months in a calendar year without penalty. The individual mandate to buy insurance begins on Jan. 1, 2014, which means an individual can go without insurance through March 31, 2014, and not pay a fine.
Originally, the law was interpreted to mean that a person had to have coverage in effect by March 31. In the health-insurance exchanges – i.e, Healthcare.gov and the 14 state-run exchanges – that meant enrolling by Feb. 15 for a policy that starts March 1. Health-insurance policies begin on the first of the month, and so if one waited until after Feb. 15, the policy would not go into effect until April 1.
Now, the White House statement says, “If you sign up for insurance by the end of March, you will not face a penalty.”