New Report Highlights Additional Opportunities for Tax Preparation Services to Maximize Enrollment

By Zachary Baron

Now that the third open enrollment period is finally here, tax filing season is just around the corner! As we’ve previously highlighted, building more extensive relationships with tax preparers as part of an effort to prioritize ongoing outreach can be a helpful step for the enrollment community to reach more uninsured consumers.

A new report by the Urban Institute further demonstrates the benefits of leveraging the connections between tax filing and health coverage enrollment. It aligns with several of our most recent recommendations, such as improvements related to the timing for when consumers can sign up for marketplace coverage. The report also outlines other strategies that would allow tax preparation services to further help people get covered and stay covered, such as secure data transmission between tax preparation services and the marketplace and facilitating the payment of marketplace premiums with tax refunds.

As the Urban Institute’s analysis of the relevant data makes clear, tax filing remains an excellent opportunity to reach the remaining uninsured. Eighty-eight percent of those uninsured who would qualify for financial help through the marketplace filed federal income tax returns. Similar rates are seen for communities of color, and they are even slightly higher for young adults, which shows how the tax filing moment can be ideal to connect with populations that disproportionately remain uninsured.

The Urban Institute’s report also summarizes interviews with multiple tax preparers and explores several different models of how tax preparation services have approached their enrollment work, such as co-location of assisters and tax preparers and well-oiled referral networks.

While noting challenges for consumers to fully grasp the new ways taxes and health care intersect, multiple tax preparers interviewed provided hope for the future: “With time, consumers will increasingly understand how the tax process works together with health care.” But this will only become a reality if enrollment stakeholders dedicate themselves to raising greater awareness about the linkages between tax filing and enrollment!

As we’ve previously discussed, in-person assisters are uniquely positioned to help consumers navigate this new landscape, and can help consumers set expectations about new forms as well as avoid surprises at tax time. And with the fine amount increasing significantly for 2016, the tax preparation community will continue to play a vital role in sharing important messages with uninsured consumers about their new coverage options.

For further discussion of issues related to tax filing and health coverage, check out our latest issue brief: Amplifying the Connections Between Health Coverage Enrollment and Tax Filing. We hope you’ll partner with us in the coming months as we continue refining our strategies to best engage consumers about the close ties between tax filing and enrollment.

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