A small window opens to buy health insurance — and avoid a tax penalty for 2015

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    Uninsured residents of New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania are getting a new opportunity to buy health coverage through the federal marketplace — although they will still have to pay the 2014 tax penalty.

    That fee — known as the “responsibility provision” under the Affordable Care Act — could be 1 percent of your household’s income or $95 per person, although there is a long list of people who are exempted from the rule.

    Also, people can’t be forced to pay more than what it costs to buy an average plan available through the federal marketplace.

    “When they are going to do their taxes this year, that’s going to be the first time that many families are seeing the consequences,” said Emily Van Yuga, coordinator for the insurance navigator program at the Health Federation of Philadelphia. “I think that wake-up call is going to really drive people back to the marketplace.”

    Open enrollment is now closed for 2015, but the Obama administration has just announced a special signup window from March 15 until April 30 for uninsured people who are just now realizing they have to pay a penalty for going without coverage last year.

    Ray Castro, a policy analyst with the New Jersey Policy Perspective, said he wishes the Garden State had done a better job informing people about the health-law rules.

    “It gets pretty complex, and now you have to deal with the IRS,” he said. “A lot of folks don’t keep up with what the changes in the rules are.”

    Residents deserve another chance to avoid an even higher tax penalty in 2015, Castro added.

    For 2015 the tax penalty could be 2 percent of taxable household income or $325 per person, whichever is greater.

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