The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Thursday that it will extend coverage for those currently enrolled in the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) through the end of January.
The Affordable Care Act created the program to provide insurance to those with serious health conditions during the period between the law's passage and the beginning of 2014, when coverage through the ACA exchanges goes into effect. Previously, individuals with preexisting conditions could be charged more or denied insurance because of their illnesses.
The ACA includes protections preventing discrimination on the basis of preexisting conditions, with the idea of ending high-risk pools once the marketplaces open.
However, the rocky rollout of HealthCare.gov has raised worries that some individuals who are most in need of treatment would be unable to sign up by the initial enrollment deadline of Dec. 23, and thus would face a coverage gap once PCIP ends Jan. 1.
As a result, CMS has extended PCIP coverage through Jan. 31 for those who have not secured alternate insurance by the beginning of the year.
"We are committed to providing consumers additional flexibilities while they evaluate and select a quality, affordable, health plan that meets their needs," CMS spokesman Aaron Albright wrote in a statement.
The announcement applies only to those states under the federal marketplace. Those running their own exchanges have the option to adopt a similar policy, which some have already done.