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Published: Thursday, 3/20/2014

Buzzer beater

When a deadline is the only motivation

A deadline can be a powerful motivator because of the downside of missing one. In the case of health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act, Toledoans who lack coverage have a lot to lose if they miss the March 31 deadline for signing up.

Penalties are to be imposed on people who fail to get insurance this year: either $95 or 1 percent of 2014 adjusted gross wages, whichever is greater. But that’s not the greatest drawback.

The significant loss for those who could get insurance but don’t will be their lack of access to high-quality health care. That’s the reason for the big push — by local and national advocates, by health-care providers, and by government and political leaders (Democrats, anyway).

Toledoans can choose from 63 health plans. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says a Toledo family of four that makes $50,000 a year can be covered for as little as $148 a month. For a 27-year-old making $25,000, coverage costs as little as $108 a month.

People who don’t sign up by March 31 will miss the opportunity to buy coverage in the federal marketplace for 2014. They won’t qualify for subsidies toward the cost of their policies.

The only exceptions are for people who experience a “qualifying life event.” That includes losing coverage because you or a spouse loses a job or no longer qualifies for an employer plan; getting married, divorced, or separated; giving birth or adopting a child; moving to a state outside your health plan service area; becoming a citizen, or turning 26 and losing eligibility under a parent’s plan.

Otherwise, people who lack individual health coverage will have to wait until November to enroll for 2015.

In Washington, Republican leaders have made dozens of attempts to scuttle Obamacare. They are trying to gin up support for what they call a new health plan that would allow coverage to be purchased across state lines, guarantee policy renewals, shift power from the federal government to the states, and get more consumers into private plans.

They’re wasting their time. Every day, more Americans see the advantages of obtaining coverage: Buying policies without being penalized or blocked because of pre-existing medical conditions, keeping young adults on their parents’ plans, getting annual checkups without being charged a co-pay, and benefiting from other features of Obamacare that are already in effect.

People who haven’t signed up yet don’t want to miss this deadline. They have too much to lose.

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