U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin
Press Release

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Leads Letter to HHS Calling for Special ACA Enrollment Period

Special enrollment period would be open to uninsured who paid 2014 tax penalty, but missed open enrollment period that ended February 15

By - Feb 16th, 2015 08:49 am

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) led a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell, asking the agency to grant individuals who were uninsured in 2014, and subject to the individual responsibility payment, another chance to enroll in 2015 coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

“To help ensure a smooth transition this year, we encourage the Administration to create a special enrollment period to allow these uninsured individuals who did not purchase affordable coverage in 2014, and were thus subject to the individual responsibility penalty, another chance to purchase coverage for 2015,” the senators wrote. “Such a special enrollment period would increase coverage in affordable private health insurance and reduce the costs that the uninsured pass along to the insured.

“We are confident that this special enrollment period would build on the success of the law by allowing even more uninsured Americans to benefit from the health and financial security provided by the Affordable Care Act.”

“Such a special enrollment period is the fair thing to do for consumers. Without it, many consumers – many of them unaware of the new requirement to buy health coverage – will have to pay not only the penalty for 2014, but also the penalty for 2015 because they are filing their taxes after enrollment for 2015 has closed,” said Ron Pollack, Executive Director, Families USA. “Offering a special chance to enroll in coverage when they learn about the payment owed turns an otherwise frustrating experience into an educational opportunity and a chance to get health insurance coverage.”

The Affordable Care Act is already working to provide millions of families with quality, affordable health coverage. To date, the ACA has reduced the number of uninsured in America by about 12 million, and more than 10 million individuals signed up for affordable health plans during the 2015 open enrollment period, with 87 percent of enrollees in the federal marketplaces receiving subsidies to help them purchase this quality coverage. Even with this tremendous success, polling shows that many consumers still don’t know about the law’s key provisions designed to encourage enrollment. In fact, more than half of uninsured Americans are unaware of the financial help that is available to make Marketplace coverage more affordable (56 percent), less than half of the uninsured are aware of the individual responsibility provision (46 percent) and even less knew when the open enrollment period for 2015 coverage would close (17 percent).

Many people wait until the end of tax season in April to file their taxes and subsequently may not know until that time if they are subject to the individual responsibility penalty. Estimates indicate that in 2014 approximately two to four percent of taxpayers will pay the fee for choosing not to purchase health insurance they could have afforded. Many of these individuals may want to enroll in coverage to avoid the penalty again in 2015, only to find that open enrollment for 2015 coverage closed on February 15. A special enrollment period will allow these uninsured individuals an opportunity to learn about the financial help available under the law and another chance to enroll in the ACA’s affordable health coverage.

Baldwin was joined in sending the letter by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Mark Warner (D-VA).

Full text of Baldwin’s letter follows:

 

February 13, 2015
The Honorable Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Secretary
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Secretary Burwell:

After a successful first year of enrollments in 2014 and continued progress in 2015, we know there is strong demand for the quality, affordable health coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But there is more we can do to help consumers take advantage of the historic benefits the law provides. Specifically, we write to urge the Administration to allow certain individuals who were uninsured in 2014 another chance to enroll in 2015 health coverage through a special enrollment period. To continue to strengthen the health security of American families, it is critical that we work together to identify new ways to enroll more of the uninsured.

To date, the ACA has reduced the number of uninsured in America by about 12 million, while costs have come in 20 percent below projections by the Congressional Budget Office. In the current open enrollment period for 2015, more than 10 million Americans have already signed up for affordable health plans, with 87 percent of enrollees in the federal marketplaces receiving subsidies to help them purchase this quality coverage.

This tremendous success comes despite consumers’ lack of awareness of key provisions in the law designed to encourage enrollment: polling shows that more than half of uninsured Americans are unaware of the financial help that is available to make Marketplace coverage more affordable (56 percent), less than half of the uninsured are aware of the individual responsibility provision (46 percent) and even less knew when the open enrollment period for 2015 coverage would close (17 percent).

But this year, for the first time, Americans who could have afforded health coverage in 2014, but chose not to purchase it, may need to pay a fee with their federal tax return. While many of the uninsured will receive exemptions from the fee, it will apply to an estimated 2 to 4 percent of taxpayers. After paying the fee, these individuals may seek to purchase affordable health insurance and avoid a similar fee for 2015, only to discover that the open enrollment window closed on February 15.

To help ensure a smooth transition this year, we encourage the Administration to create a special enrollment period to allow these uninsured individuals who did not purchase affordable coverage in 2014, and were thus subject to the individual responsibility penalty, another chance to purchase coverage for 2015. Such a special enrollment period would increase coverage in affordable private health insurance and reduce the costs that the uninsured pass along to the insured.

We are confident that this special enrollment period would build on the success of the law by allowing even more uninsured Americans to benefit from the health and financial security provided by the Affordable Care Act.

Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

Mentioned in This Press Release

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