36K sign-ups so far in special ObamaCare enrollment period

36K sign-ups so far in special ObamaCare enrollment period
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About 36,000 people have signed up for ObamaCare plans through March 29, during a special extended enrollment period, the administration announced Wednesday. 

While the administration had not provided an estimate of how many people would sign up in the extra period, which began March 15, the enrollment number is relatively small.

ObamaCare sign-ups expert Charles Gaba had estimated that 220,000 people would have signed up by March 29. 

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The period is not over yet, however. It lasts until April 30 and Gaba notes that enrollment "may start to surge as April 15th approaches, just as the Open Enrollment numbers spiked as that deadline approached."

The extra period is designed to give people a chance to sign up if they only realize while filing their taxes that there is a tax penalty for not having insurance. The 36,000 count also does not include the 11 states running their own marketplaces that also have extra sign-up periods.  

The administration and enrollment organizations have been pushing to get people signed up. Unlike the main enrollment period, which ended in February and saw 11.7 million people sign up, not everyone qualifies for this extra period. 

People must attest that they previously did not know about ObamaCare's requirement to have insurance, that they owe a penalty for lacking insurance in 2014, and that they don't already have coverage for 2015.

The Treasury Department in January estimated that 6 million people would have to pay the penalty for lacking insurance in 2014. Other uninsured people are exempt because of factors such as the lack of affordable coverage. 

A McKinsey study in March found that 40 percent of uninsured people did not know there is a penalty for lacking insurance.

Even if people sign up under this extra period, they will still have to pay the penalty for lacking insurance in 2014. That penalty is $95 or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater. Signing up will allow people to avoid paying the penalty for lacking insurance in most of 2015, $325 or 2 percent of income, whichever is greater.

“Our focus is squarely on increasing public awareness about this tax season,” Kevin Counihan, CEO of the Marketplaces, said in a statement Wednesday. “We’re making sure Marketplace consumers have the information they need to file their tax returns and that those who went without health coverage last year are aware of the requirement to have coverage or qualify for an exemption."