- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2015

Washington state’s health exchange announced Monday that residents who face Obamacare’s tax penalty for lacking health insurance can qualify for a special enrollment period through April 17, even though Sunday was the deadline to sign up for coverage.

Customers who owe a tax under the health law’s “individual mandate” may not realize it until they file their taxes sometime between now and April 15, trapping them into even heftier fines next year, officials said.

“This is the first year that residents may incur a tax penalty for not having health insurance under the Affordable Care Act,” said Richard Onizuka, CEO for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “This special enrollment window will allow these individuals — as well as those who experienced difficulty completing their applications — additional time to get enrolled for 2015 coverage.”

Customers must contact the Washington HealthPlanFinder’s call center to request the enrollment period.

Congressional Democrats are calling on the Obama administration to offer a similar reprieve to customers on HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange that serves 37 states, although the Health and Human Services Department has not made a decision yet.

Meanwhile, other state-run exchanges offered limited extensions to people who were “in line” when midnight struck late Sunday.

Minnesota’s exchange said customers who submitted an application but did not select a plan can finish up between Tuesday at 8 a.m. and Friday at 5 p.m., while Your Health Idaho said similarly situated customers have through Feb. 21 to complete their enrollments.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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