The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

So you’ve burned your Obamacare draft card…

Earlier this week I wrote about FreedomWorks's campaign to convince young adults to burn their Obamacare draft cards.

The draft cards are not actual government documents; they're photocopies of Vietnam-era draft cards with the word Obamacare added to the top. The gesture is a symbolic one, that comes with a pledge not to purchase health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

One question I've gotten from a number of readers since that ran is: So what? This isn't a firm commitment not to purchase coverage; a young adult could always just purchase health insurance at the moment they need it.

Not true! The Affordable Care Act has an open enrollment period, which is the time frame when Americans can enroll in health plans on the marketplace. The whole point of this feature is to prevent people from signing up for coverage en route to the hospital.

The open enrollment period, for 2014, runs from October 1 until March 31. There are also special enrollment periods to accommodate those who have a major change in life circumstances. If a mother gives birth to a baby, for example, the child can enroll in coverage outside the open enrollment period. If the subscriber has a significant change in income, he or she will also be able to switch to a different (potentially more affordable) health plan.

On that list of special exemptions, Adrianna McIntyre comments, "'I accidentally burned my Obamacare draft card' didn't make the cut.'" Come April 1, the health law's marketplaces close until October of the next year. And in 2015, the enrollment period gets shorter, running only from October 7 to December 31.

The idea of waiting until one gets sick only works if you manage to schedule said major illness for sometime in the early spring. Otherwise, opting not to enroll is a decision that sticks with you through the early fall.