If you were in one of the nonprofit health insurance “co-operatives” established under the Affordable Care Act that failed midyear, you wouldn’t have to worry about paying tax penalties if you don’t sign up for a new plan before the next open enrollment period under legislation approved by the House Ways and Means Committee.

As congressional bills go, this one would apply to relatively few people. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates it would cost the government a mere $4 million over the 10-year period beginning in 2014, a drop in the bucket as government expenditures go.

But Republicans who back the measure say that forcing people who lost coverage from the government-funded plans would add insult to injury. “The plans they purchased have been terminated through no fault of their own,” said Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas). “If that’s not painful enough, these Americans–and perhaps many more if additional CO-OPs collapse–could be forced to pay the individual mandate tax penalty for not having coverage. This is just wrong.”

So far 16 of the 23 Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans that received government funding to offer competition in the ACA health insurance marketplaces have failed, covering about 750,000 people. Five of them failed between open enrollment periods, leaving enrollees scrambling to find new plans.

Democrats opposed the legislation, arguing that people who lost coverage are allowed to enroll in new plans between normal open enrollment periods, and hardship exemptions from the penalty can be obtained for people who can’t afford new coverage.

But more Republicans have climbed on the bandwagon. On Sept. 9, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), whose state lost CoOportunity Health in 2015, announced he would introduce companion legislation to the House bill.

And on Sept. 7, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sasse, and four other Republican senators introduced legislation (S. 3296) exempting people who lack choices in the exchanges from the insurance coverage mandate. About 19 percent of people buying health plans on the exchanges may have only one insurer option in 2017, up from just 2 percent in 2016, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Read the full story at http://www.bna.com/enrollees-failed-aca-n73014447437/.

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