obamacare tax penaltyNow that 2014 is approaching, many consumers are starting to become concerned about the requirements put on them by the Patient Protection and Affordability Act (PPACA — also called Obamacare). For those who already have health insurance, things are likely to remain mostly the same.
The biggest changes as a result of the law impact those that currently do not have any health care coverage. For those who do not purchase health insurance coverage, a fine will be imposed. The penalties will be collected by the IRS, and the Supreme Court ruled that the mandatory coverage requirement basically amounts to a tax.

When Do You Need Health Care Coverage?

Open enrollment for the health care coverage under the health care exchanges set up to facilitate consumers looking to buy subsidized (and even unsubsidized) plans lasts from October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. However, because of the way the PPACA was interpreted at an earlier date, the tax penalties were originally expected to kick in by February 15, 2014. This means that consumers putting off their purchases until the end of open enrollment would be penalized.

In order to remedy that situation, the White House is making an effort to extend the deadline so that it matches up with open enrollment. Effectively, this gives consumers an extra six weeks to purchase a health insurance policy without being subject to tax penalties.

Will the Enrollment Period Be Extended?

Further relief from tax penalties might be seen going forward if some in Congress get their way. Glitches plagued the roll out of the health insurance exchanges, delaying the ability of many consumers to take advantage of the web site. Problems with the web site have led many consumers to have problems purchasing insurance, or to make an effective comparison that allows them to make an informed choice about which plan to choose.

As consumers find it difficult to purchase health insurance, some are pushing for an extension of the open enrollment period — and a complementary extension of an exemption from tax penalties. Many of these lawmakers feel that if the government is at fault for causing delays in the purchase of insurance, consumers shouldn’t be penalized with extra taxes, especially if they have been attempting to buy insurance.

It’s difficult to say whether the White House will want to extend the enrollment period. The rollout of the PPACA has been somewhat stilted, and one more delay isn’t likely to look good for the President and his PPACA supporters. Indeed, it’s already been announced that employers have an extra year, until 2015, to start covering full-time employees. Another delay for the implementation of some of the key provisions of the PPACA isn’t likely to look good.

If the problems with the web site can be fixed quickly, and health insurance exchanges can operate smoothly before the end of the year, there is a good chance that the open enrollment period won’t be extended. It will still be possible to avoid tax penalties until March 31, 2014, but a swift resolution to the website glitches would negate the need for a longer enrollment period.