SACRAMENTO, California — The state is ramping up advertising and marketing efforts in the final month of open enrollment for health insurance to minimize the estimated 1 million Californians who will face tax penalties for staying uninsured, exchange officials announced Tuesday.
Many Californians could face penalties on their 2014 taxes for going without insurance and the tax penalties will double for 2015 under the federal health law.
"The penalty is rising," said Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee. "Californians who choose to remain uninsured in 2015 will see steep increases in penalties they pay when they do their 2015 taxes next year."
For example, the penalty for a person who makes $40,000 will increase from $299 in 2014 to nearly $600 in 2015. And a family of four with that same income would see fines increase from $500 to nearly $1,000.
The exchange is stressing increased penalties in social media and in paid advertising in the remaining weeks of open enrollment, which ends Feb. 15. Covered California warns that the longer they stay uninsured, the greater their financial hit.
People who sign up by next month's deadline will have coverage begin in March, allowing them to avoid penalties for the year. Those who obtain health coverage later in the year will be penalized on a prorated scale, meaning they will be assessed based on how many months out of the year they weren't insured.
Lee said even though an estimated 1 million Californians may get penalized, many may seek an exemption so it's not clear what the final number will be.
"Until we go through the process, we won't know," he said.
Meanwhile, exchange officials said they remained confident in meeting enrollment targets for the second full year of the Affordable Care Act.
As of Monday, more than 1 million new enrollees have been determined eligible for either private coverage or through Medi-Cal, California's version of Medicaid.
Of that figure, about 217,000 selected plans for private coverage and another 304,000 have been determined eligible. Another 467,000 people have been enrolled into Medi-Cal and another 111,000 are likely eligible.
The exchange has set a goal to enroll 1.7 million people for private health coverage next year, including re-enrolling 1.1 million people who signed up the first year.
Lee said the exchange will provide an update on the number of people who have renewed their plans later this week.