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13 qualifying life events that trigger ACA special enrollment
Outside of open enrollment, a special enrollment period allows you to enroll in an ACA-compliant plan (on or off-exchange) if you experience a qualifying life event.

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Finalized federal rule reduces total duration of short-term health plans to 4 months
A finalized federal rule will impose new nationwide duration limits on short-term limited duration insurance (STLDI) plans. The rule – which applies to plans sold or issued on or after September 1, 2024 – will limit STLDI plans to three-month terms, and to total duration – including renewals – of no more than four months.
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Should I take my ACA premium subsidy during the plan year – or claim it at tax time?

Should I take my ACA premium subsidy during the plan year – or claim it at tax time?

 Q. I’ve heard that I can just claim my health insurance premium subsidy on my tax return instead of getting a subsidy throughout the year based on my estimated income. How does this work?

A. Yes, you can do that. Most people don’t wait, but it can be a good choice for people who have the money to cover full price Marketplace/exchange premiums throughout the year, especially if they aren’t sure whether or not their income will actually be subsidy-eligible when all is said and done.

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The Affordable Care Act’s premium subsidies are tax credits. Unlike most tax credits, the premium subsidy can be taken in advance (advance premium tax credit, or APTC) and paid to your health insurer throughout the year. But as with other tax credits, there’s also an option to claim the entire amount on your tax return.

Most people choose to take at least some of their premium subsidy throughout the year. According to the IRS, the number of tax returns that included APTC in 2021 was actually higher than the number of tax returns that ended up being eligible for the premium tax credit1 (People who took APTC but end up not being eligible for the premium tax credit have to repay some or all of it to the IRS when they file their tax return.)

The fact that virtually everyone eligible for premium tax credits receives at least some amount of APTC makes sense, given how expensive full-price health insurance can be. Paying full price each month and having to wait until the following tax season to recoup the tax credit would be unrealistic for most subsidy-eligible enrollees.

Premium subsidies offset a large portion of the monthly premiums for the majority of the people who enroll in plans through the health insurance exchange in each state: Ninety-one percent of exchange enrollees were receiving premium subsidies as of early 2023 (paid in advance to their health insurers each month), and those subsidies amounted to 87% of the average total premium amount.2

But to claim your tax credit in advance, you do have to go through an eligibility determination process when you enroll in a plan through the exchange. This process can be simple or complicated depending on your circumstances – W2 versus self-employed, steady job versus variable income, etc. Some people prefer to skip that process altogether, pay full price for their coverage, and claim the premium tax credit in full when they file their tax return the following spring.

A few more premium subsidy considerations

Either option is fine, and the “best” option is a matter of personal preference. But here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Regardless of whether you plan to take the premium subsidy throughout the year or claim the whole thing on your tax return, it’s only available if you enroll in a plan through the exchange in your state. You cannot get a premium subsidy if you enroll in a plan outside the exchange.
  • (used in 32 states as of 2024) and the state-run exchanges have user-friendly plan comparison tools that you can use to estimate whether you qualify for a subsidy and if so, how much it would be. Depending on the size of the subsidy, you can decide whether you want to go through the subsidy eligibility determination when you enroll.
  • From 2021 through 2025, premium subsidies are larger and more widely available as a result of the American Rescue Plan and Inflation Reduction Act.
  • If you’re going to claim the subsidy in advance (and thus pay lower premiums each month throughout the coming year — or the remainder of the year if you’re enrolling during a special enrollment period), you’ll select the option to see if you qualify for financial assistance. This will be early in the enrollment process. If you say yes, you’ll go through a series of questions to determine your eligibility for financial assistance (including Medicaid, CHIP, premium subsidies, and cost-sharing reductions). The exchange will compare your income projection with the records the government already has, and may or may not ask you to provide additional documentation to back up your income projection.
  • Everyone who enrolls in a plan through the exchange – regardless of whether they end up qualifying for a premium tax credit – receives Form 1095-A from the exchange after the end of the year (the form is available via the exchange website as of January, and is also mailed to enrollees, or delivered electronically if the enrollee selects that option). The information on this form is used to reconcile or claim the tax credit when enrollees file their tax returns. (People who did not receive APTC and are certain they don’t qualify for a subsidy can skip Form 8962 and don’t need to do anything with Form 1095-A.)
  • Everyone who gets a premium tax credit – either in advance or claimed in full on their tax return – has to fill out the same form (Form 8962) on their tax return to reconcile or claim the tax credit.
  • If you get your premium tax credit in advance and it ends up being too small (which is determined via Form 8962 after the year is over and your income is certain rather than estimated), you’ll claim the additional amount when you file your taxes. But if your advance premium tax credit was too big, you’ll have to pay back some or all of it when you file your taxes.

Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for


  1. Table 1. All Individual Returns: Selected Income Items, Adjustments, Credits, and Taxes, by Size of Adjusted Gross Income, Tax Year 2021 (through Filing Season 2022 Cycle 47, November 24, 2022)” (Line 101 and Line 103) Internal Revenue Service. November 24, 2022. 
  2. Effectuated Enrollment: Early 2023 Snapshot and Full Year 2022 Average” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Published 2023. 

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