Tax officials to help with ObamaCare outreach

Tax officials to help with ObamaCare outreach
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ObamaCare officials are partnering with the IRS to help drive down uninsured rates among young people.

For the first time, the federal tax agency is working with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reach out directly to taxpayers who paid the required fee last year because they lacked coverage.

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About 45 percent of people who paid the fee — or claimed an exemption, like financial hardship — were under 35, according to HHS.

The planned mailings will lay out options for coverage and include details about how to qualify for federal subsidies. HHS will also again partner with the ride-hailing service Lyft, which will offer discounts to customers who attend open enrollment sessions.  

Young people are an important demographic for insurers and federal officials still trying to stabilize the ObamaCare marketplaces. Health insurers have complained that fewer young people than they expected have bought coverage because of the law, and that is helping to drive up total healthcare costs.

The Obama administration’s new outreach to young people is the latest step intended to ease mounting concerns among insurers seeing higher-than-expected medical costs. Many have also seen disappointing profit margins, including healthcare giants like UnitedHealth Group.

Over the last four years, people signing up for ObamaCare plans have been older and less healthy than expected. More of the younger, healthier people have decided to stick with their employer health plans or just pay the penalty to remain uninsured.

Health officials compared their partnership with the IRS to a similar program in Massachusetts, which they said has developed one of the nation’s healthiest mix of enrollees.   

In recent weeks, ObamaCare officials announced a spate of new programs and policies intended to help insurers’ bottom lines after a tumultuous year.

HHS recently announced a plan to help stabilize the risk-sharing pool and hosted a conference in Washington to help share "success stories" for companies that are staying afloat under the law.