Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay residents sign up as health insurance deadline looms

TAMPA — It took a ladder and gravity to teach construction worker Eric Jefferson everything he needed to know about health insurance.

Breaking a heel and ankle in a fall last year, the uninsured Jefferson said he accumulated $20,000 in medical bills he couldn't afford. Paying for physical therapy was out of the question.

"So I've been trying to do my own physical therapy," said Jefferson, 42, of Tampa.

But on Sunday Jefferson was one of a few dozen people who visited the Jackson Heights NFL Youth Education Town Center on Lake Avenue trying to beat today's deadline for signing up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The event was organized by the Family Healthcare Foundation in Tampa, one of numerous groups employing enrollment specialists called navigators.

Folks have until midnight tonight to sign up or face a potential tax penalty.

As it turned out, Jefferson has to come back. He said a glitch prevented him from getting a subsidy for which he should qualify. The problem, he said, is minor and he is confident he will get affordable insurance.

"I could have used the insurance when I got hurt," Jefferson said. "It's ridiculous to live without insurance. I'd avoid going to the doctor when a lot of stuff happens. I just forgot about it."

Melanie Hall, executive director of the foundation, said the ACA website was working quickly and smoothly on Sunday.

On average, it took about 30 to 40 minutes to sign up individuals for a plan, she said.

"We were braced for website (delays) this weekend" as people rushed to meet the deadline, Hall said. "I wouldn't say the site is 100 percent. I think there are times when there's a slow reaction time or times when someone occasionally gets kicked off. That's infrequent."

What's the tax penalty for most Americans who do not sign up?

For 2014, the penalty is the greater of either 1 percent of income or $95 per adult, $47.50 per child or $285 per family for the year, according to Urban Institute and Brookings Institution.

Not all face a penalty, including anyone who would have to pay more than 8 percent of their household income for the cheapest policy available.

The IRS can deduct the penalty from someone's tax refund. But the IRS cannot impose a property lien or garnish wages, according to the New York Times.

Chris Shoats, 24, of Brandon, who said he has never had health insurance, was prompted to sign up for a policy after a voice of authority told him to get moving.

"My grandmother sent me here," he said before sitting down with a navigator. "She told me it was near the last day and I better do it or they would take $100 out of my taxes."

One couple, Felicia and Glen Gant, waited for an open computer at the center to sign up. Felicia Gant already has insurance. So only Glen was signing up.

"He's really excited," she said. "But I'm still going to have to twist his arm to get him to visit the doctor."

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@tampabay.com.

>>FAST FACTS

Finding a plan

Many hospitals, health centers and government offices are offering in-person assistance with enrollment. Get a complete list at healthcare.gov, or call the Health Insurance Marketplace toll-free at 1-800-318-2596. You also can go to an independent insurance agent — one who works with all insurers — for help finding a plan.

Tampa Bay residents sign up as health insurance deadline looms 03/30/14 [Last modified: Sunday, March 30, 2014 9:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. St. Petersburg youth baseball concession stand vandalized

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — The early-morning phone call warned Charles Castle, president of Burg Baseball, to "expect the worst.'' The organization's concession stand had been vandalized.

     Cliff Williams, Vice President of the Burg Baseball Inc., St. Petersburg, looks at a damaged and trashed concession stand at the Lakewood Baseball Complex, home of the Burg Baseball. According to Williams someone vandalized the concession stand either Saturday or Sunday. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

  2. Tampa charter school teacher charged with firing handgun at ground

    Crime

    TAMPA — A Tampa charter school teacher was arrested Sunday after she fired a gun into the ground during a dispute with her boyfriend, police said.

    Melody Patrice Bing, a teacher at the Village of Excellence Academy in Tampa, emerged from her home holding a weapon and dropped it when police confronted her at gunpoint. [Tampa Police Department]
  3. Tuesday's Nothing More concert moved from the State Theatre to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg

    Blogs

    Nothing More was one of the highlights of April's 98 Rockfest, a thoroughly entertaining rock outfit with a larger-than-live stage presence.

    Nothing More performed at 98 Rockfest 2017 in Tampa.
  4. Buccaneers-Vikings Turning Point, Week 3: Overreaction vs. reality

    Bucs

    "None of us really know how this group of 53 guys is going to come together and how we're going to play this season."

    Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs torched a porous Bucs secondary Sunday with eight catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns. [Getty Images]
  5. Triad Retail Media names Sherry Smith as CEO

    Corporate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Triad Retail Media, a St. Petersburg-based digital ads company, said CEO Roger Berdusco is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities" and a member of the executive team, Sherry Smith, is taking over.

    Roger Berdusco is stepping down as CEO at Triad Retail Media to pursue other opportunities. [Courtesy of Triad Retail Media]