ObamaCare penalties could come as a shock

Almost half of uninsured adults are unaware that there is a financial penalty for lacking health insurance, according to a study released Thursday by the Urban Institute.

The study, using data from December, found that roughly 25 percent of uninsured people above the poverty line had heard "nothing at all" about the penalty, and around 20 percent had heard "only a little." Fifty-three percent had heard some or a lot.

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Under ObamaCare, people without health insurance who do not qualify for an exemption must pay a penalty. For those lacking coverage in 2014, the penalty is $95 or 1 percent of an individual's annual income, whichever is greater. The penalty more than doubles for 2015.

The low awareness is at the center of a growing push to get the Obama administration to give people another chance to get insurance through ObamaCare before the penalties take effect.

The administration is considering adding another enrollment period for people who realize as Tax Day approaches that they have to pay a penalty for not having insurance. The deadline for open enrollment this year was Feb. 15.

“Millions upon millions of people are unaware about these penalties,” Ron Pollack, the executive director of the nonprofit group Families USA, which is pushing for the new period, said on Wednesday.

Three states that run their own marketplaces under the law — Washington, Minnesota and Vermont — announced this week that they will offer more time to enroll. The decision from the Obama administration on the federal exchange is expected soon.