Healthcare.gov registration deadline looms

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The deadline to register for healthcare insurance on the government’s website is less than three weeks away — March 31. But there’s still confusion about what exactly that deadline means and what will happen if you miss it.

Experts at Cherry Street Health Services and Grand Valley State University are pretty sure this will be the final deadline to sign up for insurance on Healthcare.gov.

“March 31 is the day that all people who are qualified for a marketplace plan have to be enrolled in a plan,” Hannah Reischl from Cherry Street Health Services said.

If they aren’t, they face a fine from the IRS of $95 or 1% of their income; whichever is higher. Reischl said for most people, the fine would  be deducted from your tax return.

But will the Internal Revenue Service actually enforce the fine? There have been several delays with the rollout of Healthcare.gov, so some wonder whether fines will actually be levied this year.

“I can’t speak to any changes. With the knowledge that I have, we anticipate that fee schedule will be in place,” Reischl said.

But GVSU economics professor Leslie Muller said “anything’s possible,” when it comes to this year’s healthcare rollout.

Muller said next year is the first time taxpayers will have to provide proof of insurance to avoid that fine.

But even with all the fines and deadlines, there will be some people who just don’t get insurance.

“Purchasing insurance and going through the marketplace is a choice. That’s not something that if you don’t complete the process, it’s fine. We anticipate there will be some people in the community who choose not to do it for political reasons — we hope not for any education reasons,” Reischl said.

The process, according to Cherry Street Health Services, takes only between 45 minutes and an hour — especially if you have help.

Cherry Street will have several sign up help sessions before the deadline, including one on Tuesday, March 25 at the Wyoming branch of the Kent District Library. There will be informational presentations at 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and enrollment assistance from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

There will be another enrollment assistance session on March 26 at Fountain Street Church from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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