Health insurance sign-up deadline: Everything you need to know

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It's the final countdown for MNsure and Minnesotans without health coverage.

Come midnight, a person without health insurance faces an income-based financial penalty: Either $95 per adult for the year, or 1 percent of yearly household income, whichever is greater. The healthcare site notes paying that fee doesn't mean you're covered. If you have medical bills, you're still on the hook for all of those costs.

Want to get signed up?

In-person enrollment opportunities are being held at more than 50 different spots in Minnesota today. Click here to see a calendar. Coverage can also be purchased through mnsure.org, or through the call center at (855) 366-7873. The call center will be open until midnight tonight.

If you're planning to go the phone route, MNsure said last week to plan ahead. It's expecting an increased demand as the deadline inches closer, and acknowledges wait times could be longer than it has been. On Friday, MNsure spokesperson John Schadl said wait times were just under eight minutes.

Coverage purchased today starts May 1.

The deadline to have health insurance comes from the nationwide Affordable Care Act, not MNsure itself. In the coming years, the penalty for not having insurance increases: to $325 per person or 2 percent of annual income in 2015, then $695 or 2.5 percent the year after that.

There is some leeway for Minnesotans though, due partly to the technical problems that plagued the site for months.

Last week the exchange said people who started an application before the deadline, but were unable to finish it, would be granted an extension until April 7 – an additional week, KAAL TV reports.

But that only applies to people who tried before Monday night's deadline, not after.

“We sort of liken it to if you are standing in line to vote and the polls close but you are still able to go ahead and vote,” said Scott Leitz, MNsure’s interim chief executive, last week.

Leitz noted applicants will have to prove they tried to sign up in order to gain that flexibility.

In a health coverage deadline Q&A, Forum News Service notes missing this deadline means a person can be stuck without health insurance for months. The next open enrollment period doesn't begin until Nov. 15.

There are a few exceptions though, the paper adds. A life event – such as a job loss or new child – allows the opportunity to buy coverage before that open enrollment date. Enrollment for small business, Indian tribe members, and those eligible for Medicaid and MinnesotaCare programs is year-round.

Last October, MNsure set an enrollment goal of 135,000. The exchange passed its goal last week – going into the weekend, about 152,000 Minnesotans had obtained coverage through the exchange, it said. WCCO reports it's unclear how many of those covered Minnesotans are part of the state's 400,000 uninsured.

It’s worth noting that the MNsure enrollment goal was originally set at 178,000 people, but was revised downward several times before the 135,000 number was set, according to MPR News.

MNsure said its website and call center were running smoothly for today's deadline.

Outside of Minnesota, people trying to sign up for health coverage through the national healthcare exchange were met with a disconcerting message this morning, MPR reports: A message that the site was down for maintenance.

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