This shift is the latest in a dizzying set of changes that have been made to the enforcement of a policy that the administration defended all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Starting in 2014, individuals who did not purchase government approved insurance were supposed to be subject to a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of taxable income. Under the original sequence of events, individuals would have had until Feb. 15 to purchase insurance without being fined. Last October, HHS created a "hardship exemption" that pushed the deadline to March 31 to coincide with the end of the open enrollment period for individuals seeking insurance through the federal exchange.
But in late March, HHS effectively extended open enrollment by announcing that anybody who claimed to have tried to sign up for insurance prior to March 31 would still be allowed to do so after that date.
Now, in regulations announced Friday, HHS has created another "hardship exemption" that would allow individuals who obtained insurance as of May 1 to avoid the mandate penalties.
Additionally, HHS created three more "special enrollment" periods for individuals who still want to seek insurance through the federal health insurance exchange. Those include individuals eligible or enrolled in COBRA continuation coverage, individuals whose plans are up for renewal outside of the open enrollment period, and participants in AmeriCorps, VISTA and National Civilian Community Corps programs.