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Health Care Deadline: Signup by Dec. 31, Avoid State Tax Penalty

Rhode Island's health care deadline to sign up for coverage and avoid tax penalties, through HSRI is midnight Dec. 31. 
Rhode Island's health care deadline to sign up for coverage and avoid tax penalties, through HSRI is midnight Dec. 31. 
Rhode Island’s health care deadline to sign up for coverage and avoid tax penalties, through HSRI is midnight Dec. 31.

PROVIDENCE, RI — If you still need to secure health insurance starting Jan. 1, 2020, you have 22 days to select and pay for a plan through HealthSource RI before the deadline at midnight Dec. 31.

Though the federal tax penalty for not enrolling in health insurance, also known as the individual mandate, was reduced to zero by the 2018 Republican tax cut bill, a state tax penalty beginning Jan. 1, 2020 will affect Ocean State residents who fail to secure health insurance by year’s end. Residents who go without health coverage in 2020 risk a penalty when filing taxes in 2021, according to legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Gina M. Raimondo on July 5.

The deadline to pick and pay for uninterrupted health insurance coverage in 2020 is Dec. 23. If you don’t have health insurance through your employer, you’ll need to sign up for a health care plan through HSRI to avoid a tax penalty in 2021. The system provides income-based subsidies to aid Rhode Islanders in affording care.

In 2019, 96 percent of Rhode Islanders had health coverage, according to HSRI.com, so few would necessarily invoke the state penalty. But officials note the lack of a health insurance mandate threatens to increase costs for those who do seek coverage.

The RI Health Care Mandate: What does it accomplish?

According to a 2017 report on the federal health insurance mandate by the Brookings Institute , a nonprofit public policy organization, a person’s decision to go without health insurance coverage shifts costs onto other people. The people most likely to forgo health insurance would be younger and healthier, weakening the risk pool of people buying insurance, according to a report from Kaiser Health News.

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In the individual market, those enrollees’ departure would raise average claims costs, requiring insurers to charge higher premiums to the people remaining in the individual market, the Brookings Institute reports.

“Notably, CBO (Congressional Budget Office) has estimated that the departure of healthy enrollees from the individual market spurred by repeal of the individual mandate will increase individual market premiums by 10 percent, causing some in that market to involuntarily lose coverage and causing those who remain to bear higher costs,” according to the Brookings Institute report.

New 2019 Features For Health Insurance Customers

Two new features this year will aid customers in estimating their premium, out-of-pocket costs and if their doctor is in their plan. Visitors to the HSRI website can connect with customer service through a new live web chat tool. The website also offers a new prescription drug coverage comparison tool allowing customers to review all plans to determine if their medication is covered and what the cost is.

“We’re proud to connect Rhode Islanders with high quality health insurance,” said HealthSource RI Acting Director Lindsay Lang. “We have a range of options to fit everyone’s needs, and our walk-in center now has extended hours to better serve our customers during Open Enrollment. Now that the individual mandate is here, it is more important than ever for Rhode Islanders to have access to affordable coverage.”

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How to get help and advice applying for health care in Rhode Island

  • Rhode Islanders can sign up for coverage online at HealthSourceRI.com, over the phone at 1-855-840-HSRI, in person at the HealthSource RI Walk-In Center at 401 Wampanoag Trail, East Providence or in their community (call 211 to find help nearby).
  • Customers can save time by scheduling an appointment at HealthSource RI’s Walk-In Center by visiting HealthSourceRI.com or by calling 1-844-602-3468.
  • HealthSource RI is also holding an Enrollment Fair on Thursday, December 12 at Rhode Island Shriners’ Imperial Room at One Rhodes Place in Cranston. The full enrollment schedule is available on HealthSourceRI.com/events.

Customers may experience a delay in receiving ID cards if they enroll after December 23rd.

Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of WarwickPost.com. Contact him at editor@warwickpost.com with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.