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No 'tax season' break for Obamacare enrollment in 2016

You already got two extra chances — but you won't be getting a third.

People who don't have health coverage by the end of January will not get a second chance to sign up and avoid being fined, the Obama administration announced Monday.

In the two previous Obamacare enrollment periods, people who didn't know about the penalty until they filed their income taxes were granted a grace period that let them sign up late. This time around, they have to hit the official open enrollment deadline or face the penalty.

The elimination of the special enrollment period comes after relatively anemic uptake of the offer last tax season. Less than 144,000 people in the states served by the federal marketplace HealthCare.gov took advantage of the offer at that time. The website serves more than three-fifths of the U.S.

The administration also on Monday highlighted the rising penalties that people without insurance will face in 2016, and revealed that more than 2 million people had signed up for Obamacare insurance plans sold through HealthCare.gov, as of Nov. 28.

Officials also said enrollment has surged in the past week as a Dec. 15 deadline for having coverage effective Jan. 1 approaches.

People can still sign up for coverage for 2016 as late as Jan. 31.

"If you don't enroll by then, you could have to wait another year to get coverage and may have to pay the fee when you file your 2016 income taxes," wrote HealthCare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan in a blog post.

"For 2015, the fee for not having health insurance if affordable insurance is available to you and you don't qualify for an exemption is $325 per person or 2 percent of your annual household income — whichever is higher," wrote Counihan, whose Obamacare exchange serves 38 states. "For 2016, the fee you'll have to pay if you choose to go without health insurance will increase to $695 or 2.5 percent of your income — whichever is higher."

People who don't have health coverage for more than three months out of the year are subject to the fine, although there are a slew of potential exemptions. Acceptable health coverage can include job-based insurance, Obamacare individual plans sold through or outside the government-run exchanges, Medicare or Medicaid.

Obamacare experts are closely watching enrollment numbers this year to see if the higher penalty will boost sign-ups.

Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, has said she expects about 10 million people to be enrolled in Obamacare plans nationwide by the end of 2016.

Burwell wrote on her official Twitter account Monday that "Last year we saw a surge in sign-ups in the two weeks counting down to the deadline."

"True to trend, this year we're seeing the same energy as we approach the Dec 15 deadline for Jan 1 coverage. #GetCovered," Burwell tweeted. "Last Monday-Friday were our top five days for new consumers signing-up to date this Open Enrollment."