Updated on Dec. 24, 2013
As if Obamacare isn't confusing enough, even its critical deadline dates have been moving targets. At last the White House has "clarified" the Obamacare deadlines uninsured Americans need to remember are December 24, 2013 and March 31, 2014.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013: is the date by which the Obama administration says people need to sign up for a health plan in order to make sure their plan's benefits begin by January 1, 2014.
The original deadline of December 23 was extended to December 24 in order to accommodate people who attempted to sign-up on Monday the 23rd but encountered delays on the Healthcare.gov website, according to the White House.
Also remember to allow yourself time to decide which "bronze," "silver," "gold," or "platinum" insurance plan is best for you and your family, and to find out if you qualify for federal tax benefits or subsidies that could lower your monthly premium payments. (Also See: Obamacare Penalties and Minimum Requirements)
Monday, March 31, 2014: is the "big" deadline date. It is the end of the 2014 Obamacare open enrollment period and, most importantly, the last date to sign up for coverage without facing a tax penalty.
While your coverage won't actually take effect until mid-April, signing up for a plan by March 31 will at least protect from paying the penalty. "If you sign up for insurance by the end of March, you will not face a penalty," said the White House.
But the rush of traffic on the Healthcare,gov website near the December 23 deadline will be a day at the beach compared to the onslaught of sign-ups it will be asked to process on March 31. So, word to the wise, shop early. Waiting until the end of March to sign up for Obamacare coverage will be risky.
Other Ways to Get Coverage
If you don't want to gamble on the day-to-day health of the Healthcare.gov website, you can also apply for coverage through the Obamacare insurance exchanges by telephone, by mail or in person.
Also See: Confused by Obamacare? Try a Navigator
Of course, you can always apply for Obamacare-qualified health insurance plans by going directly to insurance companies, brokers or agents. However, these sources cannot offer the money-saving federal tax credits and subsidies available through the Obamacare insurance exchanges.