At least two states are requesting a longer Obamacare enrollment period—and they might get it.
The Obama administration has been very clear that the enrollment deadline for health insurance purchased on the exchanges is March 31, and that it doesn’t think it has the authority to extend it. But because some consumers continue to have trouble signing up, officials are eyeing a “special enrollment period” that would virtually extend the deadline to get coverage.
Nevada and Oregon hope to qualify for one of the health law’s special enrollment periods. Consumers in both states have faced technical issues in getting coverage: Oregonians still don’t have a functioning online exchange, and Nevadans are receiving error messages and hitting other site glitches reminiscent of HealthCare.gov‘s early days.
Just under 39,000 Oregonians and 29,000 Nevadans had successfully selected a plan as of March 1, according to data from the Health and Human Services Department—fewer than 1.6 percent of all Obamacare enrollees nationwide.
State exchange officials have reached out to HHS to request permission to extend the enrollment period. Oregon exchange spokeswoman Ariane Holm said the state is seeking an extension through the end of April. Nevada is looking at up to 60 days, as permitted by law.
Nicholas Bagley, a health law professor at the University of Michigan Law School, wrote a post on the “considerable discretion” HHS has in granting special-enrollment periods for The Incidental Economist, an economics and health blog. HHS, he said, has the legal authority to grant special enrollment periods for consumers who had tried to get coverage but could not.
HHS officials have avoided repeated questions about whether a state could qualify for a special enrollment period and emphasized that consumers should sign up by March 31, the end of open enrollment.
But the administration has already made some tweaks to that deadline, and it wouldn’t be uncharacteristic to grant leeway to consumers who tried but could not get coverage, given the number of changes made last December in trying to get people insured who wanted coverage beginning Jan. 1. And just Friday, officials announced consumers with serious illnesses covered under the law’s Pre-existing Condition Insurance Program can now select a new exchange plan through April 15.
The Wall Street Journal also reported Sunday that federal officials are working on a plan to allow consumers who tried but failed to get through HealthCare.gov by March 31 to sign up after the deadline.
Oregon officials, The Oregonian reported late last week, are hoping for a similar reprieve for the state’s residents.
And in Nevada, the Las Vegas Sun reports, the state is already making unilateral moves to set up a special enrollment period. It’s unclear whether Nevada has the authority, given that HHS has not issued guidelines for how the special-enrollment periods would work, but the board of directors of Nevada’s exchange has a vote scheduled Thursday on the matter.
What We're Following See More »
"Sen. Lindsay Graham said he is '100 percent behind' embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and said there would be 'holy hell to pay' if President Donald Trump fires him. Graham also said that if the president went after special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who’s directing the investigation into possible contacts between Trump’s circle and Russia, that could be the 'beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong.'"
"With little pomp or circumstance, Sarah Huckabee Sanders stepped up to the briefing room podium and got straight to business Friday, reading announcements about "Made in America Week" and a new executive order on defense. Minutes later, newly minted communications director Anthony Scaramucci announced she was formally taking over as White House press secretary. In the aftermath of a chaotic communications staff shakeup at the White House last week, there was little attention paid to a new milestone as Sanders assumed the role."
"The highest ranking military officer in the country said that the military’s transgender policy won’t actively change until President Trump sends specific directions to the Pentagon. 'There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president’s direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance,' Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford wrote in a letter."
"A long-simmering feud between two of President Trump’s top advisers reached a boiling point Thursday, as White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci publicly insinuated that chief of staff Reince Priebus is a leaker."