Extra health care enrollment time for those unaware of tax penalty

Some Marylanders get more time for health enrollment.

Marylanders who get dinged with a tax penalty this year because they didn't realize federal law requires everyone to have health insurance will get extra time to enroll in a plan.

The agency that runs the state exchange, on which insurance can be bought under health reform, will hold a special enrollment period from March 15 to April 30. Open enrollment ended Feb. 15.

Under the plan announced by the Maryland Health Connection, people will still have to pay the penalty this year but won't get stuck with the penalty next tax season if they enroll.

The federal government has already said it would also extend the deadline for people in the 37 states where it runs exchanges.

"This year's tax season is the first time that consumers will be asked to provide basic information regarding their health coverage on their federal tax returns," Carolyn Quattrocki, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, said in a statement. "Because this requirement is new, we realize that some Marylanders are unaware that they may face a tax penalty for choosing to forgo health insurance.

"We want to give these consumers, who become aware of the consequences when they prepare their returns, the opportunity to enroll in quality, affordable health coverage instead of paying the penalty for the remainder of 2015."

The penalty for the 2014 tax year is 1 percent of gross household income over the federal income tax filing threshold, or $95 per individual, whichever is greater. For 2015, the penalty increases to 2 percent of gross household income over the federal income tax filing threshold, or $325 per individual, whichever is greater.

Marylanders who are eligible for Medicaid do not have to pay a penalty.

Three-quarters of Marylanders will have to check a box on tax returns this year indicating they had health coverage. The insurance can be through an employer, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans care or other qualified health coverage brought through people such as brokers or the state exchange.

amcdaniels@baltsun.com

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