Does it even matter at this point?
People who obtained health plans off the marketplaces after March 31 will not automatically face a penalty under the individual mandate, the Obama administration said Friday.
In a bulletin, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) created a temporary hardship exemption for people who purchased coverage that was effective on Thursday of this week or beforehand.
The move essentially nullifies the month of April for the purposes of enforcing the mandate.
Previously, people with a three-month gap in coverage in 2014 would have faced a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of annual household income. This meant that almost everyone needed to have health insurance by March 31.
But the administration changed this deadline to May 1 for many people who struggled to enroll on the marketplaces.
CMS reasoned Friday that people seeking health plans outside the exchanges are “similarly situated” to people inside the system and may have been confused by the shifting deadlines.
The decision extends a hardship exemption for all months prior to May 1 for people who had coverage outside the marketplaces on that date. It does not prevent penalties from hitting people later in the year if their coverage lapses.