Potential complications await consumers as President Barack Obama’s health care law approaches its second open enrollment season, just two months away.
Don’t expect a repeat of last year’s website meltdown, but the new sign-up period could expose underlying problems with the law itself that are less easily fixed than a computer system.
Getting those who signed up this year enrolled again for 2015 won’t be as easy as it might seem. And the law’s interaction between insurance and taxes looks like a sure-fire formula for confusion.
— For the roughly 8 million people who signed up this year, the administration has set up automatic renewal. But consumers who go that route may regret it. They risk sticker shock by missing out on lower-premium options. And they could get stuck with an outdated and possibly incorrect government subsidy. Automatic renewal should be a last resort, consumer advocates say.
—An additional 5 million people or so will be signing up for the first time on HealthCare.gov and state exchange websites. But the Nov. 15-Feb. 15 open enrollment season will be half as long the 2013-2014 sign-up period, and it overlaps with the holiday season.
— Of those enrolled this year, the overwhelming majority received tax credits to help pay their premiums. Because those subsidies are tied to income, those 6.7 million consumers will have to file new forms with their 2014 tax returns to prove they got the right amount. Too much subsidy and their tax refunds will be reduced. Too little, and the government owes them.