White House Extends Open Enrollment Deadline for Avoiding a Tax Penalty

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According to the Washington Post, the Obama Administration confirmed on October 23, 2013, that an individual who purchases health insurance during the open enrollment period through March 31, 2014, will not be required to pay a tax penalty for failing to have coverage during the first three months of 2014.  This announcement does not change the open enrollment period for obtaining coverage in 2014, which has always been the six months from October 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014.  What is commonly known as the “individual mandate” requires affected individuals to pay a tax penalty for failure to obtain coverage for three consecutive months in a year beginning January 2014.  Individuals who are required to do so but fail to be enrolled in a qualified plan on March 31, 2014, face a tax penalty for failing to have coverage during January, February and March of 2014.  Under the exchange, individuals must enroll by the 15th of the month in order for coverage to begin on the first day of the following month.  The administration previously took the position that for an individual to have coverage on March 31, 2014, he or she must have enrolled by February 15, 2014, in order to have coverage beginning on March 1, 2014.  The White House’s announcement on October 23, 2013, thus grants those individuals required to obtain coverage an extra six weeks, from February 15, 2014 through March 31, 2014, to enroll in a plan and still avoid a tax penalty.  The administration maintains that it has the ability to make this change without Congressional approval.

In light of the numerous substantive issues that have plagued the enrollment website, Healthcare.gov, Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter to President Obama on October 22, 2013, also urging the administration to extend open enrollment beyond March 31, 2014.  Other Senate Democrats have echoed Sen. Shaheen’s request by releasing statements pressuring the administration to extend the open enrollment period.  Although it has granted an additional six weeks for enrolling without incurring a penalty, the administration has not yet extended the open enrollment period beyond March 31, 2014.  

Reporter, Kate Stern, Atlanta, +1 404 572 4661, kstern@kslaw.com.