Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sunday deadline looms to sign up for Obamacare and avoid this year's higher penalty

Nickolas St. Cyr, 26, of Tampa logs in to his Health Insurance Marketplace account on Wednesday while working with Dr. Avery Rosnick-Slyker with USF’s Florida Covering Kids & Families’ Navigator program to get enrolled in the Marshall Student Center Atrium in Tampa. St. Cry is a graduate student and has aged off of his parent’s coverage. With some guidance from the navigator program, he is now covered on his own plan. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]


Nickolas St. Cyr, 26, of Tampa logs in to his Health Insurance Marketplace account on Wednesday while working with Dr. Avery Rosnick-Slyker with USF’s Florida Covering Kids & Families’ Navigator program to get enrolled in the Marshall Student Center Atrium in Tampa. St. Cry is a graduate student and has aged off of his parent’s coverage. With some guidance from the navigator program, he is now covered on his own plan. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]

TAMPA — Dustin Rogers was sure he had missed the deadline for enrolling in an Obamacare plan this year — until a patron in the Tampa bar where he works set him straight last week.

"The deadline isn't until Jan. 31," the barfly said between beers.

Rogers, 30, made it a point to attend an open enrollment event Wednesday at the University of South Florida. Signing up was a relief, he said, not only because he can now see a doctor, but because he won't have to pay the $695 tax penalty for not having coverage.

"I feel like there's some weight being lifted off my shoulders," he said.

With just four days to go until the end of open enrollment, consumers throughout the Tampa Bay region are scrambling to buy health insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. There's still plenty of help available to them; health care advocates and insurance companies have scheduled events to help consumers choose their coverage.

"It's one of those things people put off until the very last minute — like filing their taxes," said Shannon Almadrones, a regional organizer for the nonprofit Enroll America. "But we want people to know that there's still time and we're here to help."

So far, 261,849 residents in the Tampa Bay region (including Sarasota) have signed up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace or had their existing plans automatically renewed, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Florida continues to lead the nation in enrollment, with 1.6 million people statewide having already selected a plan. Nationally, the figure is about 11.5 million people, according to federal health officials. It is expected to rise to about 13 million by the end of open enrollment.

Confused about Sunday's deadline? You aren't alone.

Only 7 percent of participants in a recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll of uninsured Americans correctly identified January as the deadline to enroll in a marketplace plan.

The confusion likely stems from Obamacare's rolling deadlines. Consumers had until mid December to sign up for coverage starting Jan. 1, and until Jan. 15 for coverage starting Feb. 1.

Sunday is the final deadline. For those last-minute shoppers who purchased a health insurance plan between Jan. 16 and Jan. 31, coverage will start March 1.

Observers expect the last few days of the open enrollment period to be busy, in part because the penalty for not having coverage is increasing to $695 or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever amount is higher. The tax penalty for 2015 was $325 or 2 percent of household income.

Tampa Bay area consumers won't be on their own. The nonprofit Family Healthcare Foundation is offering free assistance from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday at the Hillsborough Community College Ybor Student Services Center.

In addition, health insurance company Humana will hold enrollment events Friday and Saturday at Citrus Park Town Center in Tampa and Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg. And Florida Blue will keep its retail centers throughout the region open "as late as needed to help people get coverage," spokeswoman Christie Hyde DeNave said.

Beatrice Pierre-Charles, a 21-year-old USF student, was among those seeking last-minute insurance information at the open enrollment event Wednesday. She had received emails from Healthcare.gov about the looming deadlines — and was worried she would have to pay the penalty.

During her meeting with a health care navigator, Pierre-Charles learned she falls in the Medicaid gap, meaning she is not eligible for Medicaid, but makes too little to qualify for subsidies that help offset the cost of marketplace coverage. She also found out she is exempt from the fine.

Pierre-Charles left without buying an Obamacare plan, but said she will apply for the Hillsborough County health plan for residents with limited means.

"I'm happy that I'm informed about it," she said.

Rogers, the bar employee, was able to find a mid-range silver plan from Ambetter Health that includes dental coverage for $175 a month — a little more than he was hoping to pay, but a "reasonable" cost for insurance, he said.

He's glad he did.

"You never know what could happen," he said.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at kmcgrory@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.

Sunday deadline looms to sign up for Obamacare and avoid this year's higher penalty 01/27/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 10:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Waiting for the eclipse: 'Everyone thinks this is cool'

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Hunter Holland came to school Monday with a NASA space T-shirt and solar viewers in his button-up shirt pocket. But he'd rather be in Missouri.

    Jayda Hebert (front, center), 11, uses her protective glasses to watch Monday's solar eclipse with her cousin, Judah Adams (back left), 11, and her brother Jake Hebert (right), 9, while with their family at St. Petersburg Beach. "We're skipping school for the eclipse," her mom, Sarah Hebert, said. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  2. Second person resigns from Hillsborough diversity council after Confederate activist appointed

    Blogs

    TAMPA — A second person has resigned symbolically from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the appointment of a known activist of Confederate causes to the panel. 

    Two people have resigned from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the inclusion of David McCallister, a leader of the local branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
  3. Everyone on Twitter is making this same eclipse joke

    Blogs

    Today's total solar eclipse is, of course, a social media event as much as it is a natural phenomenon. Twitter even rolled out an #eclipse hashtag that automatically adds an eclipse emoji.

    The solar eclipse is inspiring Twitter humor.
  4. Live video: See how the solar eclipse unfolded across the country

    Space

    Americans gazed in wonder through telescopes, cameras and disposable protective glasses Monday as the moon blotted out the midday sun in the first full-blown solar eclipse to sweep the U.S. from coast to coast in nearly a century.

    The moon is seen as it starts passing in front of the sun during a solar eclipse from Ross Lake, Northern Cascades National Park, in Washington on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. [Bill Ingalls | NASA via AP]
  5. Photo gallery: Stunning images of the 2017 solar eclipse

    Space

    Americans gazed in wonder through telescopes, cameras and disposable protective glasses Monday as the moon blotted out the midday sun in the first full-blown solar eclipse to sweep the U.S. from coast to coast in nearly a century.

    The moon covers the sun during a total eclipse Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, near Redmond, Ore.  [Ted S. Warren | Associated Press]