CMS Announces Special Open Enrollment Period for Federal Exchange
The Obama administration on Friday announced it will hold an additional open enrollment period for U.S. residents to sign up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act's federal exchange that aligns with the federal government's April 15 deadline to file their 2014 taxes, Vox reports (Kliff, Vox, 2/20).
Under the ACA's individual mandate, U.S. residents who did not have health coverage in 2014 must pay $95 or 1% of their incomes, whichever is higher, as they file their 2014 taxes. The penalties will increase to $325 or 2% of individuals' incomes, whichever is higher, for those who do not have insurance in 2015.
The administration had been considering whether to allow a special open enrollment period for U.S. residents who have not yet enrolled in health coverage through the ACA that aligns with the federal tax filing deadline (California Healthline, 2/19).
Details of Special Open Enrollment Period
Obama administration officials said the special open enrollment period will apply to individuals who can confirm they:
- Did not know about the individual mandate penalties until they filed their taxes;
- Have paid the federal government any penalties assessed for not having coverage in 2014; and
- Do not currently have health plans purchased through HealthCare.gov (Vox, 2/20).
The special open enrollment period will begin on March 15 and end on April 30 (Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal, 2/20).
Officials said the special open enrollment period would only occur this year.
CMS Deputy Administrator Andy Slavitt said, "Our intention is this is one year only, for people who have not been in the communication loop around the tax penalty."
According to Vox, the special open enrollment period will only apply to residents in states that use the federal exchange for enrollment. However, states that have established their own exchanges can choose to offer a similar enrollment period (Vox, 2/20).
Survey: Many Uninsured U.S. Residents Unaware of the Fines
In related news, more than 40% of U.S. residents who likely will face penalties for not having health coverage in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate say they have heard "nothing or only little" about the associated fines, according to an Urban Institute survey released Thursday, the Washington Times reports (Howell, Washington Times, 2/19).
For its December 2014 Health Reform Monitoring survey, Urban Institute researchers interviewed individuals with incomes higher than the federal poverty level, since those with incomes falling below the poverty level likely will be exempt from the mandate (Andrews, Kaiser Health News, 2/20). The survey was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Overall, the survey found that one-quarter of uninsured U.S. residents that have incomes high enough to qualify for penalties under the individual mandate expected to pay a penalty. However, 65% of those who are likely to face the fines either:
- Had not heard about the ACA's exchanges;
- Had heard about the ACA's exchanges but did not know the open enrollment period deadline; or
- Thought the deadline to enroll in coverage through the exchanges was in March, instead of Feb. 15.
Citing the findings, Urban Institute researchers recommended that the Obama administration launch another open enrollment period that aligns with the federal government's April 15 tax filing deadline (Washington Times, 2/19).
U.S. Residents Remain Divided on ACA
In related news, U.S. residents remain divided in their views of the ACA, according to a HealthDay/Harris Poll released Thursday, HealthDay/Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
The survey was conducted from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2 and included responses from 2,028 U.S. adults.
According to the poll:
- 30% of respondents favored repealing the ACA;
- 28% said the ACA should be changed; and
- 26% said the ACA should be kept as is.
Opinions on the ACA also remained mostly split along party lines, with:
- 54% of Republican respondents saying they would like the law repealed;
- 25% of Republicans saying the law should be changed;
- 8% of Republicans saying the law should be kept as is;
- 44% of Democratic respondents saying the ACA should remain as is;
- 28% of Democrats saying the law should be changed; and
- 9% of Democrats saying the ACA should be repealed.
According to Harris Poll Chair Emeritus Humphrey Taylor, the survey results are similar to others on the ACA taken from 2010 to 2012. He said, "The stability of public opinion on the ACA is remarkable, with attitudes to the ACA as a whole and many elements of it remaining almost unchanged since the fall of 2012."
However, the poll found that individuals are less likely to support an ACA repeal when they are asked about specific provisions of the law. For example, the survey found that:
- 70% of respondents favored the ACA's requirements that insurers cannot deny health coverage to an individual based on pre-existing medical conditions;
- 62% said the favor the ACA's provision allowing individuals to remain on their parents' health plans until age 26; and
- 18% said they favor repealing the law's health insurance exchanges.
Meanwhile, 52% of respondents said they favor repealing the ACA's individual mandate.
The survey also questioned respondents on their support of the law's subsidies to help individuals purchase coverage through the exchanges, which are currently being challenged in the upcoming Supreme Court case King v. Burwell. The survey found that:
- 43% want the Supreme Court to uphold the subsidies in the federal exchange;
- 38% are unsure; and
- 19% said the court should strike down the subsidies (Thompson, HealthDay/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/19).