Second Chance Open Enrollment Through April 30 For ObamaCare: How Will Employers React If a Second Chance Enroller Triggers an Employer Mandate Penalty?

February 23, 2015 at 9:04 am | Posted in Affordable Care Act, Health Care | Leave a comment
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The Hill reported today that the Obama administration (through CMS) will hold a second enrollment period for ObamaCare this year to give people a chance to avoid a new tax penalty for going without insurance. The enrollment period will run from March 15 to April 30, at the height of tax filing season, officials said. The announcement does not address the issue of whether any form of transitional relief would be available to a large employer who, until now, may have avoided a penalty under the employer mandate because of the failure of an employee to sign up for ACA coverage and possibly receive a premium subsidy. Arguably, such an employer would now be exposed again since employees lacking coverage will have another bite at the ACA health coverage subsidy apple.

Congressional Democrats and advocacy groups had been pushing for the new enrollment period, arguing that millions of people are still unaware of the penalty and should be able to sign up for ObamaCare once they learn of it. “Our intention in doing this is not to increase numbers for numbers sake, it’s to make sure that if there were people who were unaware of the fee that they aren’t disadvantaged by that,” Andy Slavitt, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ deputy administrator, said on a call with reporters. The administration estimates that up to 6 million people will likely be forced to pay the fine for not having insurance during this year’s tax season, marking the first time that the penalty will be in effect. Officials said that they do not have an estimate for how many people will take advantage of the new enrollment period.
People signing up now will still have to pay a penalty for lacking insurance in 2014. Anyone who was uninsured last year will be hit with penalties of either $95 or 1 percent of their income — whichever is higher. That fine will spike this year to $325 or 2 percent of their income. Officials said that the new period is a one-year-only occurrence. “Our intention is that this is one year only for people who have not been in the communication loop around the tax penalty,” Slavitt said.
Separately, the administration announced that there had been an error on a tax return form for people with coverage under ObamaCare, causing some tax credits to be calculated either too high or too low. Officials said the problem affects around 50,000 people who have already filed their taxes, and that they are being contacted to correct the problem.
A link to the announcement can be found here: CMS Announces Special Enrollment Period for Tax Season

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.

 

Massachusetts: New $254 Million Health Exchange Website is working

November 18, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Posted in Affordable Care Act, Health and Human Services, Health Care, Health Insurance Marketplace, HHS, Medical, Wellness | Leave a comment
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by Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts officials are reporting a successful weekend launch of the state’s revamped health insurance website, but cautioned of possible “hiccups” in the system with expected heavier traffic during the week.

Officials said Monday that in the first two days of the new federal open enrollment period, nearly 5,000 eligible people were immediately registered for state Medicaid coverage.

Nearly 7,000 others were able to complete the process of determining eligibility for plans that comply with the federal Affordable Care Act. They still need to review those insurance plans, choose one, and make their first month’s premium payment.

The successful rollout was in sharp contrast to a year ago, when a failed health exchange forced the state to place hundreds of thousands of residents into temporary Medicaid coverage and led to a costly overhaul of the website. The website woes were also an embarrassment for the state that provided a blueprint for the federal health care law.

Maydad Cohen, a special assistant to Gov. Deval Patrick, said Monday that the new website has proven stable and reliable — handling more than 57,000 visitors over the first two days of open enrollment.

“During the weekend we saw excellent performance of the website,” Cohen told reporters Monday. “We had a very successful, very exciting weekend.”

Of the nearly 7,000 people deemed eligible to obtain insurance through the state’s health insurance exchange during the weekend, about 3,600 individuals and families already have selected a plan and 137 already have paid their first month’s premium, state Health Connector officials said.

Those numbers will continue to climb as more people sign up for insurance.
Hundreds of call representatives also are assisting those looking to sign up for coverage, having trouble with the website or are unsure how to use it.

Cohen said one of the main reasons for high call wait times is that many of those seeking one-on-one help want to go through the entire application on the phone, something that can take 45 minutes or more per application.

Cohen urged those seeking to sign up for coverage to try the website first.

As a result of the previous website troubles, the state ended up putting more than 400,000 individuals into temporary subsidized insurance programs, including MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program.

Secretary of Health and Human Services, John Polanowicz said between 175,000 and 225,000 of those were expected to enroll in new coverage, including through MassHealth.

Polanowizc said the number is lower than the 400,000 because of what he called the natural “churn” of subsidized care, with individuals losing their eligibility because they’ve found a job that offers insurance, or have obtained health care through a spouse, or have moved out of state.

Dec. 23 is the deadline to ensure coverage that starts on Jan. 1. Fixing the website hasn’t been cheap. The original cost of Massachusetts’ website was estimated at $174 million. That has jumped to $254 million.

HHS Releases New Obamacare Enrollment Figures: 2.2 Million Enroll, 79% Receive Financial Assistance

January 14, 2014 at 10:52 am | Posted in Affordable Care Act, Health and Human Services, Health Insurance Marketplace | Leave a comment
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Nearly 2.2 million people have selected plans from the state and federal marketplaces by Dec. 28, 2013 (the end of third reporting period for open enrollment), Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced yesterday. Key findings from yesterday’s report include:

  • Nearly 2.2 million (2,153,421) people selected Marketplace plans from Oct. 1 through Dec. 28, 2013
  • Signups in the state and federal marketplaces represent a nearly five-fold increase from October-November, including nearly 1.8 million (1,788,739) people who selected a plan in December (compared with the previous two-month cumulative total of 364,682 through Nov. 30, 2013).
  • Of the almost 2.2. million who have enrolled:
    • 54 percent are female and 46 percent are male;
    • 30 percent are age 34 and under;
    • 24 percent are between the ages of 18 and 34, and;
    • 60 percent selected a Silver plan, while 20 percent selected a Bronze plan; and
    • 79 percent selected a plan with Financial Assistance

In regards to state specific enrollment numbers in New England, HHS reports the following enrollment figures through December 28, 2013:

Massachusetts     5,428
Rhode Island       9,803
New Hampshire 11, 446
Maine                 13,704
Connecticut        36,000

Click Here for a complete copy of the HHS press release and report.

Enrollments In Federal Exchange and Several State Exchanges Are Well Below Expectations: One Tenth of Plan

November 12, 2013 at 8:59 am | Posted in Affordable Care Act, Health Care, Health Insurance Exchanges, Health Insurance Marketplace | Leave a comment
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The Wall Street Journal reports today that fewer than 50,000 people have signed up for health insurance in  the 36 states where the federal government overseas the new health insurance exchanges. The 50,000 figure does not include those who signed up for health insurance but were directed into Medicaid. The Obama administration had been forecasting 500,000 enrollees for the month of October. Several states are significantly behind plan as well in light of their own technology problems as well. For example, the state of Oregon has yet to enroll a single person into its state-run healthcare exchange, according to reports by The Associated Press and NPR released on Monday. The Obama administration has promised to release official enrollment numbers this week.

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