Senate Democrats ask for extra enrollment time for uninsured

Eleven Senate Democrats penned a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, asking the Obama administration to create a special enrollment period that would allow people extra time to sign up for health insurance following the closing of the latest enrollment period on Sunday, according to The New York Times.

The special enrollment period would be aimed at people who are subject to tax penalties because they did not obtain health coverage in 2014 and also missed the Sunday deadline to get coverage for 2015, according to the report. Treasury officials said up to six million taxpayers may be subject to such penalties.

Many Americans are unaware of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's provisions and the requirement to have coverage or pay a penalty, and were also unaware of federal marketplace enrollment period dates, according to surveys cited by the report.

A special enrollment period would benefit the interest of the administration in several ways, according to health policy experts. It would increase the number of insured Americans and reduce the amount of people subject to tax penalties, thus relieving some of the opposition of the health law. Additionally, extending enrollment time would increase the number of people with insurance subsidies, thereby growing public investment in the King v. Burwell Supreme Court decision.

"Some Americans will realize too late that they will be forced to pay a penalty for not having health coverage," Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota told NYT. "At the same time, they will no longer be able to sign up for that coverage because the enrollment period closed. We need to change that, and I hope the administration makes common-sense fixes so individuals and families have more time to sign up."

The Obama administration is expected to make a decision on the senators' suggestion this month, according to the report.

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