Here’s Who Gets An Obamacare Extension

A simple attestation is all it takes to sign up for coverage after March 31.

A physician with stethoscope poses on October 19, 2009 in Manassas, Virginia. A new poll released October 20, 2009 found most Americans support one of the most controversial healthcare reform options being debated by lawmakers.The Washington Post-ABC News poll found 57 percent of Americans either strongly or somewhat support 'having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans.' Some 40 percent said they were strongly or somewhat opposed to the so-called public option, which President Barack Obama has said he favors but does not consider a non-negotiable component of any health care reform. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
National Journal
Sam Baker and Clara Ritger
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Sam Baker Clara Ritger
March 26, 2014, 2:35 p.m.

Obama­care’s en­roll­ment dead­line isn’t dead, but the ad­min­is­tra­tion may have just ad­ded a new loop­hole.

The win­dow still tech­nic­ally ends on March 31. But people who couldn’t fin­ish the en­roll­ment pro­cess will get ex­tra time to sign up, as long as they say that they tried to meet the dead­line, the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices said Wed­nes­day.

“Just like Elec­tion Day,” CMS spokes­wo­man Ju­lie Ba­taille said, “if you were in line when the polls closed, you get to vote.”

But CMS of­fi­cials said they won’t ne­ces­sar­ily be able to veri­fy wheth­er con­sumers try­ing to sign up after the dead­line had be­gun the pro­cess be­fore March 31 — mean­ing that pro­cras­tin­at­ors might be able to lie their way in­to the sys­tem after the en­roll­ment cutoff.

“This is an of­fi­cial ap­plic­a­tion,” Ba­taille said. “Most people will be truth­ful when try­ing to ac­cess those be­ne­fits.”

Con­sumers who at­test they tried to en­roll by March 31 can come back at any point throughout the year, a CMS of­fi­cial said in an email ex­change fol­low­ing the call.

Open-ended en­roll­ment is a big con­cern for in­sur­ance com­pan­ies.

The defined en­roll­ment peri­od ex­ists as a way to coax healthy people in­to the sys­tem; it’s there to dis­cour­age people from re­main­ing un­in­sured un­til the mo­ment they get sick and need cov­er­age. Any­thing that weak­ens the firm dead­line could also weak­en that in­cent­ive, in­surers ar­gue.

“The new spe­cial open-en­roll­ment peri­od needs to be lim­ited to a defined peri­od of time with a clear end date,” said Clare Krus­ing, spokes­wo­man at in­dustry lobby group Amer­ica’s Health In­sur­ance Plans. “This helps to en­sure there is an in­cent­ive for people to en­roll. It is also ne­ces­sary so health plans know who is covered as they de­vel­op and sub­mit premi­ums for next year, which is re­quired in some states as early as April.”

CMS said cov­er­age will be­gin on the first of the month for late con­sumers who sign up by the 15th of the pre­vi­ous month, which has been its policy throughout open en­roll­ment.

The en­roll­ment ex­ten­sion is in­ten­ded to ad­dress heavy traffic that may slow the pro­cess for con­sumers try­ing to buy health in­sur­ance at the last minute.

Kurt Del­Bene, a former Mi­crosoft ex­ec­ut­ive who was brought in by the ad­min­is­tra­tion last fall to fix Health­Care.gov, said the on­line ex­change is func­tion­ing well and can handle up to 100,000 sim­ul­tan­eous users.

Some con­sumers may also ex­per­i­ence waits at high-volume times, he said, where they can queue up and re­ceive an email no­tice when the site is ready for them to com­plete their ap­plic­a­tion.

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