Now that's a West Coast offense!
Two states that run their own Obamacare markets—California and Washington—are blowing away the much-larger, federally run HealthCare.gov when it comes to signing up customers during a tax season grace period. That special enrollment offer is open to people who only just learned they owe a fine for not having health insurance last year.
Through last Friday, a total of more than 38,700 people selected health plans during special enrollment in California and Washington, officials said. Most of those enrollments came from people subject to the fine for lack of coverage in 2014, although an unknown share of Washington's tally signed up for other reasons.
The two states' total of fine-related sign-ups is possibly well more than half of the 68,000 or so people who signed up through April 13 on HealthCare.gov—where 36 states are participating in the special enrollment season.
Obamacare supporters had called for a special enrollment period this year because they were worried that too many people remained unaware of the penalty for not having health insurance, and too many would be unable to enroll by the time they became aware of it.
Open enrollment in Obamacare plans closed in mid-February—two months before the end of the first tax season to impose fines for lacking health coverage. Up to 6 million people this tax season were expected to pay fines equal to the greater of $95 per adult or 1 percent of taxable household income. Those fines increase for 2015 coverage to the greater of $325 per adult or 2 percent of taxable household income.
The fines are deducted from a person's tax refund, or, in fewer cases, added to what a person owes the Internal Revenue Service.