As we enter 2014, many Americans are wondering about upcoming federal Marketplace deadlines for health insurance created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare. Many Americans are aware that the deadline for federal Marketplace insurance coverage effective January 1st was December 23rd. The Administration later extended the deadline for those who had already started the application process prior to December 24th. However, if a family hasn’t signed up yet, what are their options?

The good news is that open enrollment lasts until March 31st. This means that you can obtain and purchase coverage up until March 31st without incurring a tax penalty for being uninsured. Unless your application is already started, it is too late to receive health insurance coverage effective January 1. However, you can start insurance with other effective dates.

Important Dates for Those Who Have Started Applications

If you started your application prior to December 24, but technical issues with kept you from completing it, you may be able to receive an extension and still get immediate coverage. The policy was still being finalized around Christmas, so be sure to check with your state marketplace. Some states are not implementing the extensions.

If you completed your application and have selected insurance, but have not paid yet, some health insurance plans are offering extensions for payment to be received up through January 10th, at which time coverage will be applied retroactively back to January 1st. It’s important to note that generally, no coverage goes into effect until the payment is made, so you may have to seek reimbursement after you pay on medical expenses you incur prior to January 10th. Some pharmacies are offering 30 day supplies of certain prescriptions. Check with your chosen health insurance company and health providers for details.

If You Haven’t Started an Application Yet

If you haven’t started an application yet, you will want to do so as soon as possible. If you enroll by the 15th of the month, your coverage will begin on the first day of the next month. You can visit to get information about your specific health exchange and how to apply.

If you prefer not to use the internet, or don’t have online access, you can also call and apply by phone at 1-800-318-2596. This line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so if you experience long wait times you can call back at any less busy time.

In addition to applying online and over the phone, you can also apply in person with an in-person assister. The assister can help you fill out a paper or online application and walk you through each step of the process. To find assisters in your area, you can call the 800 number above or visit the online Local Help site.

If You Don’t Obtain Insurance by March 31, 2014

If you don’t obtain insurance by March 31, 2014, you may face a financial penalty on your taxes at the end of the year. The first year, this penalty is the higher of $95 per person ($47.50 for children under 18) or 1% of your yearly household income. The fee increases every year afterward, reaching 2% of your yearly household income or $325 per person in 2015 and 2.5% of income or $695 per person by 2016.

There are exemptions for those who cannot afford health insurance or have some other type of hardship. Some of the exemptions include not being able to find insurance that is less than 8% of your income, not having to file a tax return, being a member of a federally recognized tribe, or being part of a recognized sect with objections to health insurance. For more information on obtaining an exemption, visit the Exemptions site on

Although December 24th has passed, there are still opportunities to get health insurance in place before the penalty begins to be enforced. Whether you had technical difficulties or simply haven’t started yet, be sure to have your health insurance finalized before March 31st, 2014 to avoid penalties.