Health & Fitness

Uninsured residents have two more days to sign up for health coverage

People without health insurance have two more days to sign up for coverage to minimize next year’s penalty for being uninsured in 2015.

The original deadline to sign up for health coverage for this year’s open enrollment was Feb. 15. Covered California then extended its deadline to Feb. 22, giving those who couldn’t complete their application some extra time.

After open enrollment ended, Covered California officials announced a special enrollment period in an effort to help people avoid a steeper tax penalty when filing taxes next year. The new deadline is Thursday.

Under the Affordable Care Act, people without health insurance may face a penalty of $325 per adult or 2 percent of their income, whichever is greater.

People can sign up through Thursday as long as they tell their insurance agent or enrollment counselor they were not aware of the penalty for being uninsured. No documentation is required.

“Many consumers who just finished their taxes learned there is a tax penalty for being uninsured,” said Peter V. Lee, Covered California executive director, in a news release. “If they act now, they can avoid an even steeper penalty for tax year 2015.”

On Tuesday, Covered California announced that 33,000 Californians who enrolled in a health plan since February indicated that they were unaware of the penalty.

Alex Hernandez, an insurance agent in Merced, said his 1820 P St. office has been busy with people looking to enroll in coverage after they were fined during tax season. This year, people without insurance faced a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of their income, whichever was greater.

“People don’t want to pay again next year,” he said. “We are still receiving a lot of call and visits, and we’re doing everything we can to help.”

Hernandez noted that he has also heard from families that received insurance premium subsidies that were too high because they misreported their income totals when signing up for insurance last year. These families are now having to pay some of it back.

“These people are now coming to me for help so that this won’t happen to them again next tax season,” Hernandez said.

After Thursday, people will be able to sign up for health coverage through Covered California only if they meet special qualifying conditions, such as having a baby, getting married or losing a job. Medi-Cal enrollment is open year-round.

For more information, visit www.CoveredCA.com.

Sun-Star staff writer Ana B. Ibarra can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or aibarra@mercedsunstar.com.

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