Obamacare special enrollment period begins March 15

By Karina Mazhukhina

enrollmentTo help consumers avoid tax penalties for not obtaining health insurance coverage this year, a special enrollment period will begin March 15 and end April 30.

To qualify, people are expected to confirm: they had to pay a penalty in 2014; cannot claim their income tax forms were the first to inform them of their penalty; and verify that they are not currently enrolled in a plan on HealthCare.gov, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). So far, the CMS has no estimates on how many people fall into this particular group.

Everyone who qualifies is encouraged to use their state’s health insurance marketplace to sign up.

“There remain millions of people who are unaware of the premium subsidies that make insurance affordable and who didn’t know about the tax penalty for failing to buy insurance,”  Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, told Modern Healthcare magazine. “This special enrollment period will therefore be a helpful, teachable moment and will enable many people to obtain health coverage and avoid future penalties.”

According to recent Obama administration projections, up to 6 million Americans did not enroll for coverage in 2014. However, most of them will be exempt from penalties, either related to their inability to pay or other life changing circumstances.

Anyone who is still uninsured by the end of the special enrollment period is subject to pay a penalty of $325, or 2 percent of their household income, whichever is higher. That’s $230 more than last year’s penalty, according to the CMS.

“We recognize that this is the first tax filing season where consumers may have to pay a fee or claim an exemption for not having health insurance coverage,” said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner in a news release.

“Our priority is to make sure consumers understand the new requirement to enroll in health coverage and to provide those who were not aware or did not understand the requirement with an opportunity to enroll in affordable coverage this year.”

The United States Department of Health and Human Services hopes to have 9.1 million individuals who paid for their selected plans signed up during its second re-enrollment period, according to the Modern Healthcare article.

The CMS has more details on its website.