(AP) Several million people hit with new federal fines for going without health insurance will get a second chance to sign up starting Sunday, and that could ease the sting of rising penalties for being uninsured.
But as the enrollment window reopens, it's unclear how many know about the time-limited opportunity, let alone will take advantage of it.
Fines payable to the IRS are the stick behind the offer of taxpayer-subsidized private insurance under President Barack Obama's health care law. Virtually everyone in the country is now required to have coverage through an employer or a government program, or by buying individual policies.
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This is the first year fines are being collected from uninsured people the government deems able to afford coverage. Tax preparation company H&R Block says the penalty averages about $170 among its affected customers. It usually is deducted from a person's tax refund.
Those penalized are mainly the kind of people the law was intended to help: low- and middle-income workers who do not have coverage on the job or are self-employed. Roughly 4 million people are expected to pay fines, according to congressional estimates. Many more will qualify for exemptions.