Fewer than expected buy coverage during tax season enrollment period

About 950,000 new customers selected a health insurance plan on Healthcare.gov during the special enrollment period (SEP) from Feb. 23 to June 30, and 15 percent of those people signed up during tax season to avoid paying a fee for lack of coverage.

New data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) show that a total of 143,707 individuals took advantage of the tax season SEP, which ran from March 15 to April 30. This was fewer individuals than expected, The Hill notes, which means the Obama administration still has work to do to convince uninsured Americans to sign up for coverage to avoid the fine.

About 7.5 million people paid an "individual responsibility payment" for failing to sign up for coverage this year, the first year the individual mandate fine went into effect, FierceHealthPayer has reported. The average consumer paid a fine of about $200--individuals faced a penalty in 2014 of whichever was higher, $95 per person for the year or 1 percent of yearly household income. That figure jumps to 2 percent of yearly household income or $325 per person in 2015, according to Healthcare.gov.

Many people waited until the last minute to sign up for coverage during the tax season SEP, the data show. Enrollment gradually increased throughout the SEP, the CMS report says, "culminating in more than 38,000 plan selections on April 30, the final day of the tax season SEP."

Meanwhile, tax filing issues also may jeopardize subsidized health insurance coverage for 1.8 million Americans, as many who purchased plans using tax credits failed to file tax returns that properly account for them.

For the remainder of individuals who signed up for plans during the overall SEP, the largest share--50 percent--did so because they lost other health insurance coverage. Nineteen percent, meanwhile, signed up during the SEP because they were determined ineligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Plan.

To learn more:
- here's the report
- read The Hill article
- check out the Healthcare.gov fees document

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