For insurers, tax time creates opportunity to reach uninsured Americans

Insurers should take advantage of the connection between health coverage enrollment and the tax filing season to get uninsured Americans to sign up under the Affordable Care Act, according to a report by Enroll America.

As the report pointed out, tax time creates opportunities for insurers and in-person assisters to "break through" with the message to uninsured consumers and existing marketplace enrollees about the consequences of not carrying health insurance. So, Enroll America said policy makers should tie the marketplace open enrollment period to the tax filing season and change those dates in the future to Nov.15 to March 15. Here are three recommendations for enrollment stakeholders, as noted in the report. 

Emphasize the amount of the fine. There will be a sizeable increase in the fine for uninsured Americans leading up to and during the upcoming enrollment period. Consumers who paid a modest fine earlier this year may be unaware of the considerable jump in how much they must pay for not having coverage in 2015. What's more, about 7.3 million paid the fine rather than sign up for insurance, according to IRS figures released earlier this year.

Encourage reporting of income and other changes. Insurers should incorporate messages about the importance of people timely reporting income and other household changes to the marketplace to minimize surprises when they file their taxes. Insurers should make it clear to consumers that estimated income is used by the marketplace to set advance payments of their tax credit. Insurers should get consumer consent to send reminders throughout the year to report any changes.

Set expectations. Insurers should discuss the importance of completing the appropriate tax forms with enrollees and alert them to the problems they will face upon renewal if they fail to do so. Tax filing issues may jeopardize subsidized health insurance for 1.8 million Americans, as FierceHeatlhPayer previously reported. Individuals who purchase plans using tax credits must properly account for them when they file their tax returns. If they don't file the necessary forms, they may be ineligible to receive subsidies.

To learn more:
- Read the Enroll America report and recommendations