Democratic Pressure Builds to Reopen ACA Exchange Enrollment Through April

February 19, 2015 at 10:33 am | Posted in Affordable Care Act, Health and Human Services | Leave a comment
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The publication The Hill reported today that pressure is building on the Obama administration to give uninsured people a second chance to sign up for ObamaCare before they are required to pay a fine of $325 or 2% of their income, whichever is greater, during next year’s tax season. Democrats and several advocacy groups argue that people without insurance don’t realize they’re in danger of taking a significant economic hit.

“Millions upon millions of people are unaware about these penalties,” Ron Pollack, the executive director of the nonprofit group Families USA, said in a briefing Wednesday. The first time people will actually pay the fine is in this coming tax season. Just one-third of people without health insurance said they were aware of the healthcare law’s penalty in a March 2014 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The administration estimates that as many as 6 million people will be forced to pay up this spring.

The pressure on the administration is coming from advocacy groups, Democratic lawmakers and states that are extending or adding to their enrollment periods. Minnesota on Wednesday became the second state to add a grace period through the end of tax season in April. California and New York – the two largest state exchanges – are also mulling an extension, as is Kentucky, state officials said Wednesday. California will decide by early next week whether to create the special period – an idea that the state’s health secretary said Wednesday that she supports. If the administration doesn’t provide another enrollment period, it could create a situation where residents of some states have more time to avoid the tax, while people on the 37-state federal exchange do not.

The administration hasn’t ruled out adding the enrollment period, and HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Wednesday that she plans to make a decision by next Friday. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is leading a group of 10 Democratic senators this week who wrote a letter to Burwell urging a new period. Separately, Sander Levin (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, signed a letter with two other Democrats to “strongly urge” the administration to give extra time.

 

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