Filing your 2021 Federal Income Tax return: Child Tax Credit

Nearly every family is eligible to receive the expanded Child Tax Credit, including families that haven’t filed a tax return previously and families that don’t have recent income.

Each qualifying household is eligible to receive up to $3,600 for each child under 6 years old, and $3,000 for each child between 6 and 17 years old. The credit is not a loan!

Since the American Rescue Plan expanded eligibility and increased the amount of this tax credit for children, almost all families qualify. Even families who have not filed a tax return before or do not have recent income are eligible for the full Child Tax Credit. Anyone who has a child with a Social Security number (SSN) can get it, even if they do not have an SSN themselves. 

All you must do is file a tax return this year. Families who received monthly payments last year will get the second half of the credit when they file taxes this year. If you missed out on payments during 2021, you will still get the full credit when you file your taxes this year.

If you are filing for the first time, or have additional questions, visit GetYourRefund.org, call 211 or make an appointment with your local Taxpayer Assistance Center to learn more about how to get your money!

I have children but didn’t work in 2021. Can I claim the Child Tax Credit?

You may claim the Refundable Child Tax Credit on your 2021 Federal income tax return even if you did not work or have any income. You must have lived in the United States for more than half of 2021 AND have a Qualifying Child with a valid Social Security Number.

Visit GetYourRefund.org to get your tax credit.

Remember: Any refund you receive because you claimed the Refundable Child Tax Credit is not counted as income when determining your eligibility for federal government assistance or benefit programs.

IRS Quick Info Guide

Do I have to repay my Advanced Child Tax Credit?

If you received an Advance Child Tax Credit payment in 2021 but had changes to your family, income, or living situations, then you may have to repay some or all the amount you received to the IRS. 

The amount of Advance Child Tax Credit payments sent in 2021 was based on an estimate of the amount of Child Tax Credits you could claim based on your:

  • Income
  • Filing status
  • Residence
  • Number of dependents.

If your situation changed after you received payments, then the IRS MAY have overpaid you and you may have to repay the IRS by reporting the overpayment on your 2021 tax return. 

Is there help for families & individuals who must repay the Advance Child Tax Credit?

The Repayment Protection Plan can help low-income families and taxpayers.  It is particularly beneficial to families and individuals who had a change in the number of qualifying children in 2021, such as divorced parents with children. 

To qualify for full Repayment Protection and not have to pay back any overpayments, you must meet the following requirements:

  • your main home was in the United States for more than half of 2021 AND
  • your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) for 2021 was:
    •  At or below $60,000 (married filing joint or qualifying widow or widower)
    • $50,000 (head of household)
    • $40,000 (single or married filing separate). 

The Repayment Protection amount is then phased out, or lowered, as your modified AGI gets higher.  If your modified AGI was at or above $120,000 (married filing joint or qualifying widow or widower), $100,000 (head of household), or $80,000 (single or married filing separate) then the Repayment Protection is capped, and you will have to pay back all excess payments. 

To find out more about Repayment Protection and the Advance Child Tax Credit, visit: https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/2021-child-tax-credit-and-advance-child-tax-credit-payments-frequently-asked-questions

Resources

The 2021 Child Tax Credit | Information About Payments & Eligibility
Determining Your Family’s Child Tax Credit Eligibility | Age & Income
Free Income Tax Preparation Resource: VITA Sites

Filing your 2021 Federal Income Tax return: Earned Income Tax Credit

More people than ever before will qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit this year.

For the first time, workers 19-24 and 65 and older without kids at home now qualify for the tax credit, expanding eligibility to millions of additional workers nationwide.  Additionally, if you did not qualify in the past because your income was too high, you may now qualify.  Here’s what you need to know: 

  • You may qualify for a credit of more than $1,500 if you do not have children living with you.  
  • You may qualify for a credit up to $6,700 if you are raising children in your home.  
  • You may qualify if you make $27,380 or less without kids or $57,414 or less with kids. 

To qualify for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), you must: 

  • Earn money from a job or certain disability benefits 
  • Be 19-23 years old and not enrolled in school for more than 5 months in 2021 or be 24 years or older. (There is an exception for homeless and former foster youth. Homeless and former foster youth can be 18 or older and enrolled as a student and still qualify for this credit.) 
  • Make $27,380 or less without kids or $57,414 or less with kids in 2021 
  • Have a Social Security number for everyone listed on your tax return, including a spouse or child  

You can check your eligibility by using the EITC Qualification Assistant

Make sure to file your taxes by April 18, 2022, so you can claim your credit.  Visit GetYourRefund.org to find out more about how to get this tax credit and others like the Child Tax Credit. 

Earned Income Tax Credit FAQ

I’m between the ages of 19 and 24 without dependents.  Do I qualify?

  • Some 19-24-year-olds who earn less than about $21,000 could now get money back at tax time through an expanded tax credit, even if you don’t have kids and don’t normally file taxes.  
  • Workers who are 19-23 and were a full- or part-time student for more than 5 months in 2021 do not qualify. 
  • Homeless youth and former foster youth ages 18+ who work are eligible, even if they are a student.  
  • You may qualify for a credit of more than $1,500 if you don’t have children living with you. 
  • If you support yourself financially, you can file your own taxes, even if your parents claimed you as a dependent on their taxes in previous years. 
  • Visit GetYourRefund.org to find out more about how to get this tax credit. 

I’m over the age of 65 without dependents.  Do I qualify?

  • If you’re 65 years old or older, you can now qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit even if you are retired or aren’t caring for any kids in your home.  
  • You may qualify for a credit of more than $1,500 if you don’t have children living with you. 
  • To qualify, you need to have earned income from a job or certain disability benefits, whether you are retired or not.  
  • Social Security benefits and pensions do not count as income for this tax credit.  
  • Don’t miss out on the Earned Income Tax Credit! File your taxes before April 18, 2022.  
  • Visit GetYourRefund.org or call 211 to find out more about how to get this tax credit or to get connected with local IRS-certified free tax filing assistance. You can also connect with AARP Tax-Aide assistance by calling 888-227-7699. 

I’m an immigrant.  Do I qualify?

  • You must be a U.S. Citizen or non-resident alien for all of 2021. 
  • If you have a Social Security number (valid for employment and Issued before the due date of the tax return (including extensions)), you can qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit when you file your taxes. 
  • You may qualify for a credit of more than $1,500 if you don’t have children living with you or up to $6,700 if you have three or more children. 
  • If you don’t have a Social Security number and your children do, you could get a Child Tax Credit worth up to $3,600 per child when you file a tax return with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). 
  • Visit GetYourRefund.org to find out more about how to get this tax credit. 

What income do I use to calculate my Earned Income Tax Credit?

You can now elect to use your 2019 earned income to calculate your 2021 Earned Income Tax Credit.   

  • If your 2019 income was higher than your 2021 income, you may enter the amount of your 2019 earned income on your tax return to calculate your 2021 EITC.  This is particularly beneficial for individuals and families whose employment or work was impacted in 2021 by the global pandemic or other factors.   
  • Note: You may not use your 2020 earned income to calculate the 2021 EITC.  You may only use your 2019 earned income. 

More Resources

Find out more about the 2021 Earned Income Credit by visiting: https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/individuals/earned-income-tax-credit-eitc 

IRS Earned Income Tax Credit FAQ (English)

IRS Earned Income Tax Credit FAQ (en español)

Wage Theft During the Holiday Season

The holiday season is busy and stressful for many workers, especially hourly workers in the retail, food service, and delivery sectors. During this busy time, employers are less likely to pay workers for all hours worked or to pay overtime rates. It is important for workers to understand common practices that result in unpaid wages and incorrect hourly rates, also referred to as wage theft.

What to look out for

According to the US Department of Labor, common employment law violations during the holiday season include:

  • Misclassifying employees as independent contractors to evade liability under employment laws
  • Failing to pay salespeople and cashiers for time spent prepping or closing out registers
  • Requiring stock room and warehouse workers to work through breaks without pay
  • Requiring workers to clean or perform closing duties after they have clocked out
  • Failing to pay promised holiday rates or overtime rates

Who is at risk

Temporary holiday and seasonal workers are particularly vulnerable to wage theft. Employers count on these temporary workers to be unfamiliar with their employment rights and too busy to keep careful track of hours worked. Many temporary or seasonal workers are hired through subcontracted companies or temporary staffing firms, making it even more difficult to track down unpaid wages after the holiday rush is over.

What to do

If you think that your employer isn’t paying you proper wages for all hours worked, it is important to keep records of your pay and hours. Make sure to keep any records of agreed upon pay rates, paystubs, and actual hours worked. It is also a good idea to keep records of any communication with your employer, manager, or supervisor regarding your schedule, hours worked, and pay rates. Pay close attention to any differences between promised overtime or holiday pay and the amount you are actually paid.

The US Department of Labor has a free smartphone app to help workers track their hours.

Learn more

You can learn more about your workplace rights in North Carolina by calling the North Carolina Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Bureau at 1-800-625-2267 (1-800-NC-LABOR). You can also file a Wage Complaint with the Wage and Hour Bureau; more information is available on the NCDOL website.

If you would like to discuss possible unpaid wages, call us at 704-376-1600.

Protect yourself from holiday scams

‘Tis the season for holiday scams! We share some helpful tips on common scams and how to protect yourself.

Shopping Online

The two most prevalent scams when shopping online: 

  1. Non-delivery scam where a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but those items are never received, and
  2. Non-payment scam involves goods or services being shipped, but the seller is never paid.

What to Do

  • Call your credit card company or you bank. Dispute any suspicious charges.
  • Report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at ic3.gov and Contact NC Attorney General’s Office 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file an online complaint
  • Use good cybersecurity hygiene:  DON’T click on links in emails, websites, or social media.  Go directly to the website yourself from a browser like chrome or edge.

Be Careful How You Pay for Items Online or By Phone

Never wire money directly to seller or load money onto “pre-paid” gift cards.  This is how scammers typically want payment and the money is often not recoverable.  Use a credit card or protected bank debit card if you do not have a credit card, check statements, dispute with your bank.  Gift cards are to give for gifts, not to make payments to another.

Phony package delivery notices

Scammers know people receive unexpected packages this season and will send realistic-looking delivery failure notifications so you’ll follow up and reveal personal info. Before you hand over information on the internet, head to your local post office or call the delivery service to verify the notification.  These notices can be by fake email or door hangers. 

Fake charities

These crop during major disasters and around the holidays. Leaflets and phone calls from organizations with familiar-sounding names will ask you to open your wallets for a good cause. To be safe, don’t give to any charity with whom you didn’t start the contact.  Check legitimacy through the North Carolina Secretary of StateCharity Watch, or Charity Navigator.

Robo-calls

Hang up or don’t answer!  If you do not recognize the number, let it go to voicemail, you can call back. Scammers use robo-calls to pitch holiday goods, fake products, work-from-home schemes and insurance scams. 

Avoid Social Security and IRS scams.

The government will not call and threaten you, ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.  Don’t “verify” your number or be scared into thinking your benefits are about to be suspended.  Hang up and contact SSA, IRS or other government agency directly yourself. 

Beware of “person in need” and grandparent scams.

Scammers pose as a grandchild, friend or relative stranded or otherwise in trouble and need money quickly and quietly.  They may ask for money by mail or gift card.  Don’t be pressured, hang up and call another relative or friend if you are still concerned to help you investigate.

Old school pickpocketing

Crowded malls and shopping centers are havens for pickpockets. To combat this threat, it’s best to wear purses across the body and wallets in front pockets or inside a closed jacket. Consider leaving the house with the bare minimum, like your ID and debit or credit card (the latter which offer fraud protection and security features not available with cash).

Be cautious of any unsolicited door-to-door sales pitch or offers. 

Don’t sign or agree to anything on the spot – if an offer seems too good to be true it probably is. 

The more you and loved ones know about scams, the easier it is to spot and avoid them. If you need help, contact the Advocacy Center’s Consumer Protection Team for more information.

Open Enrollment 2021: FAQ Videos

Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace (AKA Healthcare.gov) will open Nov. 1, 2021, and last until Jan. 15, 2022. 

Our federally trained Navigators answer your top health care coverage questions and share important information on where to find help during this year’s Open Enrollment. Siga el enlace para videos en español.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s go over some Open Enrollment vocabulary: ACA, Obamacare, Healthcare.gov, Marketplace
What are the benefits of health care coverage from the Marketplace?
Who qualifies for health care coverage, how do you apply, & why do you need to re-enroll?
What programs are available to help people pay for health care?
What is the Medicaid gap or coverage gap? What are some resources for people in the Medicaid gap?
What are the rules on health care coverage for immigrants?

Where can I get help learning about health care coverage and how to enroll?

Preguntas frecuentes en español

Revisemos algunos conceptos importantes sobre el período de inscripción abierta: ACA, Obamacare, Mercado de seguros y www.cuidadodesalud.gov

¿Cuáles son los beneficios de obtener Seguro de salud en el Mercado de Salud?
¿Quiénes califican para Seguro médico, cómo aplicar y por qué necesita reinscribirse?
¿Qué programas de asistencia financiera están disponibles para asistencia de Seguro médico?
¿Qué es el gap de cobertura de Medicaid?¿Cuáles son las opciones para las personas en el gap de cobertura de Medicaid?
¿Cuáles son las reglas para que los inmigrantes puedan acceder a Seguro de salud?
¿Dónde puedo encontrar más ayuda disponible sobre temas de Seguro de salud?

Basic Health Insurance Terms

Need to enroll in a health insurance policy or update the one you have?

Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace (Healthcare.gov) is Nov. 1, 2021, to Jan. 15, 2022.

There are a lot of special terms in the health insurance world, and they can be difficult to understand. We’re here to help you make sense of terms you see on Healthcare.gov.

Watch the video and scroll down for more terms defined.

Learn more about how to get covered, or call 980-256-3782 to reach a Health Insurance Navigator for free assistance. You can leave a message with a quick question or schedule a longer phone appointment.

Catastrophic Health Plan
The premium amount you pay each month for healthcare is generally lower than for other plans, but the out-of-pocket costs for deductibles, copayments and coinsurance (see terms defined below) are generally higher. To qualify for a Catastrophic plan, you must be under 30 years old OR get an “affordability exemption” (the Marketplace determines that you’re unable to afford health coverage).

COBRA
A federal law that may allow you to temporarily keep health coverage after your employment ends. If you choose COBRA coverage, you pay 100% of the premiums, including the portion that your employer used to pay, plus a small administrative fee.

Coinsurance
Like a copayment (see next term), but in the form of a percentage of the cost of a healthcare service (e.g. you pay 20% of the cost of a visit or procedure).

Copayment
A set amount that you pay for a medical service or item, like a doctor’s visit. The insurance company covers the rest.

Deductible
The amount you have to pay for covered health care services (e.g. doctor and hospital visits, labs, etc.) before your health insurance or plan begins to pay. Often, the health insurance company will only pay a percentage of the costs after you reach your deductible. If you think you will need a lot of healthcare services in a year, you should look for plans with a low deductible.

Metal Categories of Health Plans
In addition to catastrophic plans, Healthcare.gov plans come in four metal categories: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Bronze plans are usually best for individuals who have few health needs but want to be prepared in case of an emergency. Bronze plans have the lowest monthly premiums, but they have a high deductible. Gold and Platinum plans are often best for people who use a lot of health services. They have the highest monthly premiums, but each visit to the doctor and each prescription will have a low copay/coinsurance. Plans in all metal categories provide free preventive care (for example, a yearly wellness visit to your doctor).

Silver plans are ideal for individuals/families with income less than 250% FPL. If you select a Silver plan, you will receive cost sharing reductions, which means your out of pocket costs (deductible, coinsurance and copays) are also subsidized and may be very low.

Network
The doctors, hospitals and suppliers your health insurer has contracted with to deliver health care services to their members. Ask a healthcare provider if they accept your insurance before you visit. If you go out of network, your care will be more expensive.

Out-of-pocket Maximum
Usually a larger number than your deductible. This is the absolute maximum amount of money you will have to spend in the year on healthcare costs. After you reach this amount, the health insurance company will cover all services 100%.

Plans and Prices Toolhttps://www.healthcare.gov/see-plans/#/ 
Saves you time! This tool allows you to see what plans are available in your area and how much financial assistance you qualify for before you fill out an application. 

Pre-existing Conditions
A health problem, like asthma, diabetes, or cancer, that you had before the date that new health coverage starts. Insurance companies can’t refuse to cover treatment for your pre-existing condition or charge you more.

Premium
The amount you pay for your plan each month.

Premium Tax Credit
The “subsidies” that lower the cost of your monthly premiums. You can take the premium tax credits in advance to lower your monthly cost, or you can take them as a refund at tax time.

To look up more key terms, visit the Healthcare.gov glossary.

NC Medicaid Managed Care – FAQs

North Carolina Medicaid Managed Care- What is it and how does it affect my Medicaid coverage?

North Carolina has undergone a change in how Medicaid benefits are set-up. This change, called the Medicaid Transformation, has caused many Medicaid-eligible individuals to be switched from the traditional Medicaid Direct, managed by the state of North Carolina, to new health plans that are managed by private companies instead. This change took place officially July 1, but many people are still left with questions about how the changes affect them. Answers to some common questions are below, as well as guidance on where to go for help.

NAVIGATING OPEN ENROLLMENT: Healthcare.gov Income Questions

Need to enroll in a health insurance policy or update the one you have?

Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace (Healthcare.gov) is Nov. 1, 2021, to Jan. 15, 2022.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s health insurance navigators help families and individuals choose plans that are best for them within the Health Insurance Marketplace implemented under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). During this Open Enrollment Period, navigators have received calls and questions from Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union County residents about the household income section of the Healthcare.gov application. With this year’s pandemic and economic uncertainty, many have lost or changed employment and are struggling to estimate their income.

Listed below this video are some helpful tips and general guidelines. More of what to (and not to) include is available at charlottelegaladvocacy.org/getcovered.

Important points:

  • You must estimate your projected income for the upcoming year.
    • If you are unemployed, it may be difficult to do this. Estimate how much you would make if you returned to your previous job.
    • If you don’t have a set salary or wages (for example, if you are a freelance worker, seasonal worker, or run your own business), it will be easier to estimate your income if you have a copy of your tax return from last year on hand.
    • If you are self-employed, you should input your net income. Click here for more help estimating your self-employment income.
    • If your income is very low or if you are unemployed, and you or a family member falls into one of the following groups, you may qualify to receive Medicaid: children under 21, pregnant women, women with breast or cervical cancer, individuals age 65 or older, blind or disabled individuals, people in need of long-term care, or people receiving Medicare.
  • You must report changes in income.
    • During the year, you must go back into your application to report if your income goes up or down. This will keep your monthly premium at a manageable price and help to reduce the amount of financial assistance you may have to pay back, if any at all.
  • You can receive financial assistance.
    • Estimating your income as accurately as possible allows the Marketplace to determine your eligibility for financial assistance.

Be sure to include:

  • Anticipated changes in income
    • Consider these questions: How might your income change in the coming year? Are you expecting business to improve or worsen? Will you be getting a raise? Work more hours? Get a seasonal job? Will another household member get a job? Will you gain or lose a dependent?
  • The anticipated income of all household members
    • If another person in your tax household has health coverage through a different plan or program, you still need to include their income on your application. Marketplace financial assistance is based on the income of all tax household members. You will be able to clarify on the application which household members do not need health coverage. Tax household members not applying for coverage are not required to provide any other information except income information (e.g. They do not have to provide a Social Security Number).
  • Some disability-related income
    • Only include Social Security disability payments when estimating your income for next year. Do not include Supplemental Security Income, only Social Security retirement or disability payments.
  • Income from investments
    • Things like stocks and bonds.
  • Alimony
    • Include only if your divorce or separation was finalized before January 1, 2019.

Do NOT include:

  • Self-employment expenses
    • Subtract any self-employment expenses from your estimated income.
  • Some disability-related income
    • Do not include Veterans’ disability income payments, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, and workers’ compensation payments when estimating your income for next year.
  • Social Security payments for applications that have not yet be approved
    • You can update your Marketplace application later next year if your application is approved.
  • Alimony
    • Do not include if your divorce or separation was finalized on or after January 1, 2019.
  • Child support

Free appointments with a local navigator can be made using the statewide appointment hotline at 1-855-733-3711, or online at www.ncnavigator.net. Appointments are filling quickly!

More Resources:

More information on how to report your income: https://www.healthcare.gov/income-and-household-information/how-to-report/

And on what to include: https://www.healthcare.gov/income-and-household-information/income/

Food and Nutrition Services Change: October 2021

UPDATED: APRIL 2022

Almost all Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) households, known as SNAP nationwide, saw a modest increase in their FNS benefits on October 1, 2021—generally between $12 to $16 per person per month. These changes were made automatically; households did not need to take any action. For more information on these changes, visit: SNAP Benefit Changes.

North Carolina is still providing monthly pandemic-related Emergency Allotments to give all FNS households the maximum allotment for their household size (or a supplement of up to $95 if they are already receiving the maximum or close to the maximum). These supplements are added to households’ EBT cards later in the month than their regular monthly allotment. Households will see a decrease in their total monthly benefits when the temporary pandemic-related Emergency Allotments end in North Carolina.  It is not yet known when these Emergency Allotments will end. 

What happens after the Emergency Allotments ends?

The total amount of FNS benefits you receive each month will change when North Carolina stops issuing Emergency Allotments (the supplemental benefits up to the maximum for each household size).  It is not yet known when these Emergency Allotments will end. In general, your monthly FNS benefit amount may change based on your household’s circumstances, such as your income, the number of people in your household, and certain expenses you pay for.

You should continue reporting changes in your household circumstances to your local Department of Social Services (DSS).  

Are there any other changes in place due to COVID-19 pandemic?

Many temporary changes were put in place for FNS in response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. To list a few (among others):

  • North Carolina has temporarily paused collection of overpayments. This suspension is currently in place through June 2022.
  • Work requirements for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents
  • (ABAWD) participating in the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) program are partially and temporarily suspended.  FNS eligibility is expanded for certain college students who meet specific criteria.
  • Extensions of certain certification periods and waivers of certain interview requirements. Note: if you receive a recertification packet in the mail you should complete it and return it to DSS. You should also continue to update DSS with changes to your household circumstances as usual.

Why did FNS benefits increase in October 2021?

Almost all FNS households saw a modest increase in their FNS benefits for two reasons starting October 1, 2021: 

  1.  USDA recently re-evaluated the “Thrifty Food Plan (TFP)”, which is used to set FNS benefits.  The changes to the TFP reflect the current cost of a nutritionally adequate diet that households can purchase and prepare.  Congress directed the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update the TFP, resulting in USDA increasing the purchasing power of FNS benefits for the first time since 1975.  As a result, maximum FNS benefits will be 21% higher than in prior years. 
  1. However, this change comes into effect at the same time a pandemic-related 15% increase in FNS benefits in place since January will come to an end on September 30, 2021. 

The net difference in these two changes will result in a modest increase for almost all FNS households of $12 to $16 per person per month. 

How much will my FNS benefits increase?

The table below shows maximum FNS benefit amounts for households under the prior 15% pandemic related boost (ending September 30, 2021) and what the new adjusted maximum benefit will be starting October 2021: 

Household SizeOct 2021-Sept 2022 Maximum FNS Benefit Per Revised TFP
1$250
2$459
3$658
4$835
The new minimum for 1- or 2- person households starting October 1, 2021 will be $20

How can Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy help?

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy fights to help families put food on the table and avoid food insecurity. We can help by:

  • Providing representation in appeals of overpayment claims, including Intentional Program Violations (IPVs), Inadvertent Household Errors (IHEs), and Agency Errors (AEs)
  • Disputing incorrect calculations of overpayment amounts or monthly benefit levels

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy also advocates for policies at the state and federal level that promote equity in and improved access to food support programs and resources.

NAVIGATING OPEN ENROLLMENT: Top Four Mistakes To Avoid

Need to enroll in a health insurance policy or update the one you have?

Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace (Healthcare.gov) is Nov. 1, 2021, to Jan. 15, 2022.

Woman holds child while talking on the phone and taking notes

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s health insurance navigators help families and individuals choose plans that are best for them within the Health Insurance Marketplace implemented under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). During the Open Enrollment Period, navigators take appointments free of charge with residents of Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union County who are concerned about making common errors that could jeopardize their ability to maximize coverage and minimize cost. 

Find FAQs and how to make an appointment and keep reading to learn the top four mistakes navigators see people make on the Health Insurance Marketplace.

1. Missing the Deadline 

The Open Enrollment Period is going on now through Jan. 15, 2022. It is very difficult to qualify to sign up for health insurance on the Marketplace beyond the designated timeframe. Usually, adjustments or new enrollments are allowed only as a result of a major life event, such as marriage, divorce, job loss or a new child. 

2. Misunderstanding Costs 

During Open Enrollment, some people only look at the cost of premiums and don’t take into consideration the deductibles, copays, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximums. These are all important factors that will help determine your overall health care costs in 2022. 

3. Over- or Under-Insuring 

A basic high-deductible plan generally has the lowest monthly premium, but it requires the policy holder to spend more before full coverage kicks in. Some people mistakenly select this option because they think it will be cheapest, but they ultimately pay more out of pocket. Navigators suggest a quick assessment of your health care spending over the last couple of years. If you tend to undershoot your deductible, you might be better off moving to a high-deductible plan. If you usually hit your deductible before it resets, you could come out ahead by paying a higher premium for a heartier plan. Remember: The cost of many preventive measures, such as mammograms, colonoscopies and cholesterol screenings, are covered 100% before you meet your deductible and require no copay.  

4. Opting Out

A few years ago, not buying health insurance meant facing a potentially costly penalty. While that penalty no longer exists, forgoing coverage is a big mistake. A single illness or injury could total thousands of dollars out of pocket.

Still looking for the answer to your question or need additional guidance to get signed up on the Health Insurance Marketplace? Make an appointment with a navigator and sign up for additional information today.