Government won't offer a special tax season enrollment period this year

The federal government announced Monday that it will not have a special enrollment period on Healthcare.gov around the April 15 tax filing deadline as it has done in the past.

Consumers who want to sign up for health insurance on the federal exchange for 2016 must do so by Jan. 31--the end of the current open enrollment period--to avoid a penalty for not having coverage when they file their income tax, Kevin Counihan, CEO of Healthcare.gov, said in a blog post.

Under the Affordable Care Act, people who can afford health insurance but choose not to enroll in coverage may be required to pay a fee on their federal income taxes.

"It's important to remember that the final deadline to sign up for 2016 coverage through Healthcare.gov is January 31," wrote Counihan. "A Special Enrollment Period around the April 15 tax filing deadline won't be offered this year. If you don't enroll by then, you could have to wait another year to get coverage and may have to pay the fee when you file your 2016 income taxes."

The fact that the government won't offer a special enrollment period around tax time is significant because the influx of costly, temporary customers who sign up during special enrollment periods was among the reasons UnitedHealth cited for its losses on the federal exchange. UnitedHealth CEO Stephen J. Hemsley said a big concern was new members who gained individual coverage during special enrollment periods and turned out to be high users of services.

The government hopes to have 10 million people enrolled in ACA plans by the end of 2016. The government tries to encourage insurance enrollment by imposing that financial penalty on those who decline insurance. The fine is set to jump to $695 in 2016 or 2.5 percent of household income.

Last tax season, fewer individuals than expected signed up for health insurance during the special enrollment period. Data showed 143,707 individuals took advantage of the tax season enrollment period, which ran from March 15 to April 30.

To learn more:
- read the blog post

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