People filing their taxes and facing Obamacare’s individual mandate penalty this spring will have an extra chance to sign up for health coverage, the Obama administration announced Friday.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services established a special enrollment period from March 15 to April 30. People who didn’t have coverage at the end of the regular enrollment period, Feb. 15, who have to pay the penalty and who say they weren’t aware of the penalty or didn’t understand it until after Feb. 15 will be given the opportunity to sign up for 2015 coverage.
The announcement applies to the 30-plus states using HealthCare.gov. Some state-run marketplaces are also considering special enrollment periods. Those who sign up will still have to pay the penalty for not having health coverage in 2014 and must attest that they have done so in order to enroll.
“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,” CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in a statement. “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.”
Democratic senators and outside groups that support Obamacare had urged the administration to give people facing the penalty an additional chance to enroll. A December survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 74 percent of uninsured Americans didn’t actually know what the mandate penalty was.
Experts have long said that the mandate would be the next big incentive for the uninsured to get coverage, now the law has likely enrolled many of the people who were eager to sign up for insurance in the first place.
The penalty for not having coverage in 2014 is $95 or 1 percent of a person’s income, whichever is greater, but increases in 2015 to $325 or 2 percent of income for not having coverage.