Health Care Act

Hundreds in Charlotte get ACA coverage, but time’s almost up

Liberty Tax offices in Charlotte have brought in benefit specialists to help people sign up for coverage.
Liberty Tax offices in Charlotte have brought in benefit specialists to help people sign up for coverage. ahelms@charlotteobserver.com

One week before the 2014 tax deadline, Affordable Care Act advocates and tax preparers in Charlotte are making a push to get people covered for 2015.

The act, which offered subsidized health insurance for the first time last year, has complicated tax filing. Many people who were uninsured for all or part of 2014 owe a penalty, but they can sign up now to get covered and reduce the 2015 penalty.

Todd Swicegood, the franchise holder for seven Liberty Tax offices in Charlotte, says his staff has already signed up more than 1,000 customers for ACA coverage. Many Liberty offices have experts from Benefits Corner on hand to help filers understand their insurance options.

“It’s amazing how many of our customers needed insurance,” Swicegood said.

Get Covered Mecklenburg, a coalition of health care and advocacy groups, will offer free help Thursday morning for those who qualify for belated enrollment based on paying the penalty.

For most people, the deadline for getting subsidized care in 2015 was Feb. 15. But the federal government offered an extension, through April 30, for people who didn’t know about the coverage mandate until they filed taxes.

Swicegood says he suspects many procrastinators knew something about the act but didn’t fully grasp how it would affect them until they filed. Among early filers – generally lower-income people hoping to get a refund through the earned income tax credit – about half were uninsured, he said. Many lost a big part of their refund to the penalty.

“It’s starting to hit them where it hurts,” he said.

For those who did get subsidized coverage in 2014, filing can bring further complications as they reconcile their estimated income, which was used to calculate advanced payment of tax credits to their insurance company, with their actual income. Most will face some kind of adjustment: Paying back Uncle Sam if the credit was too high or getting money back if it was too low.

Helms: 704-358-5033;

Twitter: @anndosshelms. This article is done in collaboration with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Taxes and insurance

▪ Income tax deadline is April 15.

▪ Special enrollment for those paying a penalty ends April 30.

▪ See if you qualify for late enrollment at HealthCare.gov.

▪ Get free enrollment assistance 9-11 a.m. Thursday at the Legal Services of Southern Piedmont Annex, 1431 Elizabeth Ave. Walk-ins are taken, or schedule a time by calling 855-733-3711 or visiting www.gcaconnector.org.

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