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Enrollment Period for Health Insurance Ends; Now the Tax Penalties Start

By Margot Sanger-Katz, February 17, 2015

The Affordable Care Act’s second open enrollment period ended on Sunday. Well, almost. Some computer problems over the weekend have led the administration to give a one-week extension to people who tried and failed to sign up.

But its tax penalty season has just begun. For people who didn’t sign up for coverage last year, and didn’t qualify for a special exemption, the consequences are starting to become clear. As people file their taxes, people who remained uninsured will be hit with penalties of either $95 or 1 percent of their income — whichever is higher. Those fines rise for people who don’t sign up this year, though they won’t feel the pain of that decision until next year.

The tax penalties are a key feature of the law, devised as an extra encouragement for reluctant people to enroll in health insurance before they become sick. But awareness remains low among the uninsured, about both signup deadlines and the penalties.

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