- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Roughly 36,000 customers have selected health plans on the federal Obamacare portal to avoid penalties from the IRS, the administration said Wednesday in an update on the health overhaul’s intersection with tax season.

HealthCare.gov customers in 37 states had until Feb. 15 to sign up for private coverage, often with the help of government subsidies, under the law. But the administration offered a March 15-April 30 grace period to people who must pay a tax penalty for lacking health insurance in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act’s so-called “individual mandate.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said 36,000 had taken advantage of the extra time as of March 29.

Last year’s penalty was the greater of $95 or 1 percent of household income over the filing threshold, and those who missed the February enrollment cutoff are exposed to a 2015 penalty of $325 or 2 percent of income, officials said.

“Eligible consumers still have time to sign up and we want to encourage all those taxpayers who qualify to consider visiting HealthCare.gov to shop for affordable coverage,” HealthCare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan said.

Although the health care law is five years old, this tax season is the first in which filers have to address their health care status on returns to the IRS.

The administration has been quick to note that three-quarters of Americans will simply check a box to attest they have coverage through an employer or government program such as Medicare, Medicaid or veterans care.

But others will have to reconcile the amount of subsidy they received on Obamcare’s exchanges with their actual 2014 income.

About 820,000 customers received the wrong data on HealthCare.gov forms that help them complete that process. The forms, known as 1095-As, listed the wrong benchmark plans by which subsidies are calculated, so the administration scrambled to send out corrected forms.

While many have received them, the administration said Wednesday it is still working on 1,500 of those forms with about two weeks to go until the tax deadline.

The administration encouraged customers who still find errors to contact the HealthCare.gov marketplace.

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