Tax Experts Team Up with Covered California To Urge the Uninsured To Get Health Care Coverage
More Than 18,000 Californians Have Taken Advantage of Limited Special-Enrollment Opportunity; Consumers Are Encouraged to Sign Up by April 30
...“The Affordable Care Act is clear: All who can afford health insurance must buy it, and the good news is that it is more affordable than ever before,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “It’s important for Californians without health coverage to sign up now to avoid the increasing tax penalty they will face in 2015 if they remain uninsured.”
Lee said that more than 18,000 consumers have taken advantage of the special-enrollment opportunity since it began Feb. 23.
Now that the King v. Burwell Supreme Court oral arguments are out of the way (with radio silence expected until they announce the decision sometime in June) , the next Big Development to keep an eye on ACA-wise is...Tax Season! There will be plenty of stories about how many people have to pay back some/all of their 2014 tax credits, how many will receive additional tax credits...and, most germane to this site, how many additional people enroll via the exchanges to avoid having to pay (most) of the higher tax penalty next year for not being covered in 2015 during the Tax Filing Season Special Enrollment Period (SEP), or #ACATaxTime as I prefer to call it.
A couple of weeks back, CoveredCA reported that they had renewed 944,000 2014 QHP enrollees, and added another 474,000 new enrollees for 2015, for a grand total of around 1,418,000 private policy enrollees (payments pending, of course). Like every other state, CA tacked on an "overtime" period for people who were waiting "in line" by the 2/15 deadline but hadn't completed the process. I was assuming this might push their grand total up to perhaps 1.5 million or so.
Today, CoveredCA released their final official numbers, and they're...underwhelming:
Obamacare: @CoveredCA says newly enrolled 2015 was 495K, total enrollment including renewals is 1.41M #ACA
Long-time followers of this site know that I attempt to track every person who gets enrolled in healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act, whether it's via individual/family exchanges, Medicaid expansion, off-exchange QHP enrollments...or the SHOP (Small Business) exchanges. They'll also recall that last year, due to the massive technical problems which most of the exchange websites faced, only a handful of SHOP exchanges were even usable, much less actually signing people up. The exchanges were, for the most part, so busy scrambling to get the individual enrollment side working properly that they pretty much put the SHOP exchanges on the back burner. Only about a half-dozen states had theirs running at all, and the total enrollment topped out at only around 83,000 people nationally.
"Regular as clockwork...or a time lock..."
(bonus points if you can guess the movie)
COVERED CALIFORNIA OFFERS CONSUMERS A CHANCE TO MINIMIZE THEIR TAX PENALTY BY ENROLLING IN A HEALTH INSURANCE PLAN
New Category Created for Special Enrollment Allows Those Unaware of a Tax Penalty for Being Uninsured to Sign up for Coverage by April 30
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California is offering a special enrollment opportunity for consumers who did not know or understand there was a tax penalty for being uninsured in 2014 or who learned they may face a penalty for 2015.
“For the first time, health care and taxes now are linked arm in arm,” Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said. “The law requires everyone to be insured, and if you’re not, you may face a significant financial penalty when you file your taxes this year.”
From Feb. 23 until April 30, 2015, consumers are eligible to apply for health coverage during special enrollment by attesting that they did not realize there was a tax penalty. To attest to this fact, they can select “Informed of Tax Penalty Risk” when filling out an application at CoveredCA.com.
You Have Until Feb. 22 to Get Across the Finish Line for Health Coverage
Open enrollment for private health coverage through Covered California in 2015 is now over, but Medi-Cal enrollment is year-round (read more below). If you started the process of enrolling in a Covered California plan by Feb. 15 but did not complete your application, you may complete it by Feb. 22 with the assistance of a certified enroller, and you need to pay your first premium payment on that same day in order for your coverage to take effect March 1, 2015.
I've confirmed that Rhode Island's weather-induced enrollment extension is indeed state-wide and is of the "full" variety (ie, people can start the application process, not just finish it), through February 23rd. This is exactly the same policy that the Massachusetts exchange announced the other day.
OK, CoveredCA had hit 1.314M as of Wednesday, and added about 46,000 more on Thursday & Friday (21K & 25K respectively) to reach 1.36 million as of last night.
That means they'd have to enroll a whopping 340K today and tomorrow, or 170K each day, to reach their 1.7M target. To reach my own just-lowered target of 1.6 million, they'd have to enroll 120K/day, which might be feasible.
Of course, with the extra 5 day "waiting in line" extension, they might be able to pull off one or the other.
Two late-breaking news items, one negative, the other potentially positive:
Arkansas:The good news a few weeks ago was that newly-elected Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson did not kill off AR's unique "private option" Medicaid expansion program as many had feared; instead, he actually proposed extending it pretty much as is for another 2 years, to the relief of decent folks, and the state legislature seemed to be OK with that (another surprise).
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) - Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas has signed legislation that will end by 2017 the state’s innovative but controversial adaptation of the Affordable Care Act, which has provided nearly 190,000 residents with health coverage.
Since open enrollment began on Nov. 15, more than 354,000 people have selected a plan, including 13,000 people on Tuesday — the second-highest single day of enrollment after the rush to meet the deadline on Dec. 15 to have coverage start on Jan. 1. They join the 944,000 consumers who signed up for coverage for 2014 and began the process of renewing their coverage for 2015.
Let's see how California has ramped up the past week or two:
As of January 26th, California's 2015 QHP selection total was at least 1.217 million people. I say "at least" because the actual renewal number is a bit fuzzy (it's either 944K or 947K depending on whether you go by the CoveredCA or HHS/ASPE report). Anyway, today they issued a press release which at least updates the new enrollee number...if you do the math:
(etc etc...too long to post the whole list)
Add them all up and you get 288,568 new enrollees for 2015. Add those to the 944K (minimum) renewals from 2014 and you get 1,232,568 or more through Feb. 2nd.
Since the prior number was 1,217,111 as of 1/26, that's an average of around 2,200/day over the course of the slowest patch of the enrollment period.
However, I just realized that they also threw in a new QHP enrollee update:
In addition, Lee reported Wednesday that as of Jan. 26, 273,111 consumers had picked a plan during open enrollment.
Add that to the 944K renewals and you have a grand total of 1,217,111 through 1/26.
That's an increase of 44,345 since January 12, or 3,167/day. Of course, this also includes the January 15th deadline, so it doesn't tell me much about the next week or so. For that, I'd have to look at the increase since 1/18 (1,200,427), which is just 16,684, or 2,085/day.
Ouch. I was expecting CoveredCA to announce somewhere in the neighborhood of 314K new QHPs for 2015 through Sunday night (the 144K already announced, plus another 170K since 12/15). Instead, the total turned out to be just 217,146. I was way off on this figure, and I'm willing to accept that. In fact, in retrospect, I must've miscalculated something, since the odds of enrolling more new people in the 28 days following the January coverage deadline (which also included the "dead zones" of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day) than the 31 days before that deadline were almost nil.