Millions of Americans are bound to be distressed when faced with penalty for lack of insurance last year as they will have to pay $95 or 1% of the family's income to the government.
As this is the first time people will face penalties under the Affordable Care Act and according to opinion polls that many of the uninsured people did not fully comprehend the law's deadlines, subsidies and fines, so obviously the fines would not be a welcome surprise.
Obama administration was planning to make this entirely predictable situation worse, but, Health and Human Services Department is in the process of ameliorating the sting that some uninsured will soon face.
The ACA's penalties for lacking health insurance in 2015 will be higher than the $95 assessed on those lacking coverage in 2014 with the deadline of 2015 still pending. Common people would not understand the depth of penalties till the time they had to fill out actual tax forms till April 15. Absent the administration's new policy, there could have been a large class of people who didn't have health insurance, had to pay an unexpected penalty for lacking coverage in 2014 and, once they realized their situation, would not have been able to avoid paying another penalty next tax season for lacking coverage in 2015.
The Obama administration will reopen health insurance markets from March 15 to April 30. Though many people won't be able to avoid one penalty, at least they will have the option of avoiding another next tax season. This should have been part of the schedule to begin with, and HHS has the legal flexibility to make it happen.
The administration is putting appropriate limits on its new schedule. The special enrollment period won't stretch far beyond April 15, and it only applies to people who had to pay a 2014 penalty not to anyone who might want to buy insurance.
A well-planned special enrollment period might have a positive effect on the individual insurance market, especially by attracting more young and healthy people who haven't paid much attention to the ACA's phase-in. The administration should now consider proposals for a permanent calendar change, with the chance to buy coverage with the incentives to purchase insurance that tax season brings.
Source: The Washington Post