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California health insurance deadline moved back

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Sergei Mordovin
Several consumer protection and industry-strengthening laws are going into effect in California.
Several consumer protection and industry-strengthening laws are going into effect in California.

Those who pay attention to the national picture when it comes to implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's health insurance mandate, have likely seen the various hiccups the roll-out experiences regularly. However, this is also an issue for states that opted to run their own exchanges instead of letting the federal government do it, and as such, some have had to make quick decisions when difficulties had arisen.

The latest of these is in the Golden State, where the deadline for Covered California was pushed back months after a number of shorter delays, according to a report from Southern California public radio station KPCC. Originally, the deadline for consumers to enroll in the marketplace for 2015 was Feb. 15; but that was pushed back to Feb. 20, then Feb. 22, before the state recently moved it back to April 30.

However, this latest deadline will only be available to people who say they didn't know about the tax penalties they would face next year until recently, the report said. Many Americans are now claiming that state or federal government agencies controlling these exchanges did not do a good enough job explaining the penalties - including fines tacked onto their taxes - associated with going without coverage for 2014. Those who only learned of the issue when they received their tax bills for this year may have been left scrambling to find coverage before this year's deadline.

Why make this decision?
In general, the people who are signing up for Covered California tend to be those with relatively low incomes, and thus they may be particularly aggrieved at the penalty this year - the greater of $95 or 1 percent of household income per uncovered adult. But with the fines doubling for not having coverage this year, Peter Lee, Covered California's executive director, said the exchange was willing to give impacted state residents "the benefit of the doubt".

This may become an increasingly important issue as the years go by, and therefore health insurance agencies may want to do more to reach out to consumers and let them know about the potential risks they face if they go without coverage. Such an effort could be mutually beneficial, by boosting enrollments for insurers and making sure consumers can avoid potentially significant penalties.



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