Open enrollment, or the period where United States citizens and residents can enroll for marketplace coverage or a Medicare funded state program through the Affordable Care Act will end on March 31st. The deadline is especially important for expat Americans who are not covered by Medicare, and expats with substantial income who do not typically report a foreign residence on their tax return.
Dealing with the individual mandate is required because the United States Supreme Court has upheld it as law, and those who fail to comply are subject to tax penalties. For 2014, the fee is $95 for those with less than $19,650 in annual income. However, for those with income above this amount a penalty applies, equal to 1 percent yearly household income.
Since the individual mandate applies for the tax year 2014, Americans will have to deal with it when they file their taxes next year. However, individuals residing outside United States need to to plan now, in order to determine if they can meet the requirement for the entire year and not be subject to a fine.
- Requirement to maintain minimum essential coverage – 26 U.S.C. 5000A (f)(4)(A)
- Obamacare Basics: Understanding the Affordable Care Act
- How do I qualify for an exemption from the fee for not having health coverage?
Free coverage with Medicaid is available through many state programs for those with little or no income. Assets do not figure in the calculation and coverage can not be denied for pre-existing conditions. The program is designed for people who are not yet receiving benefits from Social Security.
The application is relatively simple and asks questions about monthly income.
Those who apply can also use the stateside address of a family member, and they do not have to figure into questions about the household.
High income individuals may think twice about the U.S. coverage if they plan to remain in Costa Rica, and are happy with their INS plan, international policy or state funded CCSS coverage. Medical costs in the United States are the highest in the world, and private insurers give much better rates for coverage that excludes the U.S.
For high income individuals it is very important to contact a tax professional now, and correctly establish foreign residence. Those who are self-employed and abroad also face a tax complex situation.
Anyone planning to return to the United States before the end of the year, and who lacks coverage in Costa Rica and is not receiving benefits from Social Security should go to healthcare.gov and apply for their state. Coverage could be the difference between life and death, if you get sick or have a serious accident in 2014.