Washington will open a special enrollment period for health insurance till 17th of April for certain categories. The state operates its own insurance exchange under The Affordable Health Care Act. Bethany Frey, spokeswoman for Washington Healthplanfinder, said the new enrollment period was designed to help people who either ran into technical problems, or who didn't know that they face hefty penalties for not having health coverage until they filed a tax return.
The penalties, collected by the Internal Revenue Service, were $325 per adult and $162.50 per child. A family maximum penalty of $975 or 2 percent of income, whichever is greater would have to be paid. "It's really in the best interest of the consumer that we're doing this," Frey said.
Sunday night was the deadline for open enrollments. Richard Onizuka, CEO for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, acknowledged that the deadline extension will likely help the exchange get closer to its enrollment goal, which was not what the government was concerned about.
Experts in personal finance had already warned for weeks in advance that many Americans would not know they had to face penalties for not having insurance - until they filed their tax returns. Since both the subsidies and penalties under the health law were administered through the tax system, experts requested the Obama administration to permanently schedule the sign-up season to overlap the tax-filing season.
Three senior Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, which included Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington, asked the Obama administration to create a special enrollment period nationally, as millions of Americans would face new tax penalties, and should be given a second chance.
Frey, of Washington Healthplanfinder, said Washington could act on federal rules because the special enrollment was offered to two groups of people - those who were not aware of the penalty and people who experienced technical difficulties in trying to enroll.
The offer "does follow guidelines for special enrollment," Frey said. Premera Blue Cross, one of the largest insurers in the Pacific Northwest, supported the special enrollment opportunity, said spokeswoman Melanie Coon. She also said that people who wanted to buy insurance in the special enrollment period had to do it through the state exchange.
Source: Addy Patch