- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Only 150,000 customers signed up for Obamacare coverage on the HealthCare.gov website between March 15 and April 30, the administration said Tuesday, shedding light on how many people took advantage of extra time to sign up for coverage and avoid the tax penalty for being uninsured.

The figure is on top of the 11.4 million nationwide sign-ups the White House trumped in mid-February, when the regular enrollment period for the 2015 plan year formally closed, yet it’s far short of the estimated 3-6 million who were subject to the penalty for lacking insurance last year.

Hoping to tamp down surprises as Americans got used to life under the Affordable Care Act, the administration extended the six-week grace period to people who had to pay a penalty for lacking insurance in 2014 under the law’s “individual mandate.”

That way, people could sign up and avoid an even greater penalty for going uninsured in 2015. Several state-run exchanges also gave penalty payers extra time to sign up.

In a mid-afternoon Twitter message, the administration said 147,000 signed up during the special enrollment period on HealthCare.gov, which serves 37 states.

Officials offered the relief because Obamacare’s Feb. 15 signup deadline didn’t match up with the tax deadline on April 15, leaving two months of in-between for filers to discover the tax penalty on Americans who do not acquire insurance and do not qualify for an exemption.

The 2015 penalty for lacking insurance is the greater of $325 or 2 percent of household income above the filing threshold, up from $95 or 1 percent of income in 2014.

People who took advantage of the grace period to avoid the 2015 fee were not absolved of last year’s penalty.

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