Second state extends ObamaCare enrollment

Minnesota will give the public another chance to sign up for ObamaCare around tax-filing season, the state's exchange announced Wednesday, as other states and the Obama administration consider similar periods.

The announcement makes Minnesota the second state to establish the new enrollment period, following Washington's decision on Monday.


The Obama administration is considering a similar extra chance for the roughly three-dozen states that use the federal website. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell says the decision will come within the next two weeks. 

The idea behind the extra chance is that many people will not realize until they file their taxes that they owe a penalty for not having health insurance. Without a new enrollment period, they will be unable to sign up at that point, because the deadline passed on Sunday.

Minnesota's period will run from March 1 to April 30; Washington's runs from Feb. 17 to April 17. The Minnesota exchange said in a statement that the period will "raise awareness and lessen the tax burden" on Minnesota residents. 

California, Kentucky, and New York are among the other states that are considering the new period. 

"This is a teachable moment," Peter Lee, the California exchange executive director, said on a conference call organized by the advocacy group Families USA on Wednesday. "This is the first time ever in our history that healthcare and taxes are completely intertwined."

Officials in multiple states said that the tax penalty was playing a larger role in driving enrollment this year, and people were frequently signing up after learning from tax advisors that they would have to pay a penalty if they did not have insurance. 

But many more will not find out until the rush to file taxes, said Ron Pollack, Families USA's executive director.

"Millions upon millions of people are unaware about these penalties," he said.