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Thousands take advantage of health exchange special enrollment

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As of April 13, more than 68,000 individuals have taken advantage of a special enrollment period to enroll in health care plans offered through the federal health insurance exchange, federal regulators disclosed Monday.

That special enrollment period from March 15 through April 30 was made available to those who did not enroll during the regular enrollment period, which closed at the end of February and would owe a fee for not enrolling in a plan in 2014.

The fee, set by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, for not opting for coverage in 2014 was $95 per person, or 1% of household income, whichever is greater. The fee in 2015 is $325 per person, or 2% of household income, whichever is greater.

“We understand the requirement to have insurance is new, which is why we’re providing this last chance for those who are uninsured, are paying a fee, and were not aware of or did not understand the implications of the fee with an opportunity to enroll in affordable coverage for the rest of the year,” Kevin Counihan, CEO of the HealthCare.gov federal exchange, said in a statement.

The enrollment of those 68,000 individuals in the federal exchange, which offers coverage to individuals in the 37 states that did not set up their own exchanges, during the special enrollment period, compares with the 8.84 million who chose coverage during the regular open season.

Some states that also authorized special enrollment periods also have reported how many individuals signed up during those periods. For example, California, which has the largest state-established exchange with about 1.4 million enrollees, reported earlier this month that 18,000 individuals enrolled through early April.