Today is an important deadline for people looking to sign up for coverage on an Affordable Care Act exchange, but some of the political controversy around the law has ended up confusing people about what the exact nature of the deadline is.
So here’s the key thing: Today is the last day to sign up if you want to get insurance coverage that starts in January of next year.
Since most people don’t like being uninsured and since many people are eligible for subsidies to help cover the costs of insurance, that means that in most cases it would be advantageous to sign up now. But if you’re currently uninsured and you don’t sign up today, nothing bad happens to you. It’s just that starting on Jan. 1, you’ll still be uninsured. You have until March to sign up and avoid paying the individual mandate fee. And to be honest, in the first year, the individual mandate fee is pretty small. The main reason an uninsured person will probably want to sign up for an exchange plan is the same as the main reason that people whose employers offer work-linked insurance plans generally sign up—due to subsidies, it’s a good deal in actuarial terms for most people, and even when it isn’t, the sense of confidence and security (“insurance,” some might call it) offered by insurance coverage is valuable.