Although open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act ended on Feb. 15, what many don’t know is that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a special enrollment period (SEP) a few weeks back.

Mimi Garcia
Mimi Garcia

This SEP targets those individuals who, upon doing their taxes, found themselves subject to the fine for not having health insurance coverage in 2014. This special enrollment period runs through April 30. Its purpose is to help those qualified individuals who didn’t know how the fine would affect them. By taking advantage of this special enrollment period, individuals will be able to enroll in a health care plan for 2015 and avoid being responsible for another full fine on their taxes next year. The fine increases to $325 per adult or 2 percent of their income – whichever is greater.

To take advantage of this tax filing special enrollment period, individuals can go to the Get Covered Connector at to make a free in-person appointment with an “assister” in their community.

If you don’t meet the above guidelines, you may still be able to enroll if you meet certain qualifying life events.

Some people qualify for a special enrollment period of typically 60 days after certain life events. If you married, had a child or lost your health coverage you’d be eligible to enroll in a Marketplace plan.

These special enrollment periods are just another way the Affordable Care Act has been an effective means during these past five years to help get people find quality, affordable health care coverage.

In the five years since it was signed into law, the ACA has benefitted millions of Americans across the country, including more than 1.2 million Texans.

The positive impact it has had on lives is undeniable. No longer do people have to worry about unforeseen medical expenses or the fear of bankruptcy if they cannot afford to pay their medical bills.

Across the country, 2.3 million people between the ages of 19 and 25 have gained coverage since 2010. In Texas alone, 468,797 individuals under the age of 35 signed up for Marketplace coverage. In addition, the ACA gave 47 million women access to guaranteed preventative women’s health services.

But the ACA is more than just numbers. It’s about the guarantees people now have.

The ACA ensures every plan covers 10 essential health services including emergency room visits, prescription drugs and preventative care. Pre-existing conditions are no longer a deterrent to coverage. It also eliminated gender discrimination meaning women and men pay the same for coverage. And an insurance company can no longer drop a person for simply getting sick.

When it comes down to it, the Affordable Care Act is not about a requirement to have health insurance; it’s about providing a safeguard so no one has to worry about getting sick and how they will pay for unexpected medical expenses.

Editor’s Note: In the main picture accompanying this story, Affordable Care Act navigators sit ready to assist Rio Grande Valley residents apply for healthcare coverage at the offices of La Unión del Pueblo Entero in San Juan, Texas. (Photo: RGG/Raul de la Cruz)