People who are just now figuring out that Obamacare has an individual mandate will get a second opportunity to buy coverage, the Health and Human Services Department said Friday.
Technically, the window to sign up for insurance through HealthCare.gov closed this past weekend. But HHS officials said they'll make an exception for people who decide they want to buy coverage after realizing that they'll owe a penalty for being uninsured. Although fiddling with Obamacare deadlines will surely draw criticism from Republicans, the change was kind of a no-brainer for the administration: It will increase total enrollment and will also make congressional Democrats and liberal advocacy groups happy. They've been pushing hard for a special enrollment period, citing fears of a new round of bad publicity as people get hit with tax penalties only to find that they're not able to buy insurance.
The health care law's individual mandate requires most taxpayers to either buy insurance or pay a penalty—this year, it's $95 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is greater. This is the first year the IRS is collecting that penalty, and many uninsured consumers won't realize they owe it until they file their taxes.