In a last-minute push before a special enrollment begins Sunday, officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Treasury Department Friday wanted to remind consumers to sign up for coverage and avoid fees seen in this year’s tax season.
“We’re certainly not in the business of looking to collect fees or to penalize people,” said Kevin Counihan, Marketplace CEO at CMS on Friday. “We’re here to facilitate their access to health care coverage.”
Consumers will have one final six-week span between March 15 and April 30 to sign up through the Health Insurance Marketplace, but must meet all three of the following criteria to do so:
• Must owe a fee for not having insurance in the 2014 tax season;
• Didn’t know of the open enrollment period and the health care law’s requirement to have coverage;
• Is currently not already enrolled in a plan.
In the current population of people that are still uninsured, 40 percent were unaware of the fee, added Andy Slavitt, acting administrator at CMS.
Fees for the 2014 tax filings were $95 for each adult or 1 percent of a household income, whichever is greater. For an example, Counihan said a family of four with a combined household of $50,000 would pay 1 percent, or $500, this year.
And the penalty will increase in subsequent years: when filing 2015 taxes, the penalty increases to $325 per person or 2 percent of household income. In the same example, instead of $500 the fee would jump to $1,000. In 2016, there is another increase to $695 or 2.5 percent, bumping the penalty to $1,250.
And for consumers that may have additional questions on the process, Counihan directs people to the Healthcare.gov Web site where “we have a variety of different tools, resources, online and in-person access to help people find affordable choices.”
“We’re focused on educating people on the ability to get exemptions,” he adds. “The tools online will help.”
Mark Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department, says for the majority this tax season, 75 percent of the population will just need to check a box certifying they had coverage. Of the other 25 percent, “and for those uninsured, we expect the majority will qualify for an exemption.” And, as a plug for tax season filing, he advises the use of electronic filing as the easiest and most accurate way to submit taxes.