How to Extend the Obamacare Enrollment Period

Two states are hoping to qualify for a “special enrollment period” allowing residents to sign up for insurance past the March 31 deadline.

This December 2, 2013 photo shows a woman reading the HealthCare.gov insurance marketplace internet site in Washington, D.C.
National Journal
Clara Ritger
March 17, 2014, 11:31 a.m.

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 »
TWO-THIRDS
Voters Want Medical Records
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Even though they dislike both of them, the American people want to know that its presidential candidates are healthy. "Nearly two-thirds of registered voters think presidential candidates should release details about their medical histories, according to a new Morning Consult poll." In the new poll, 64 percent of Americans say the candidates should release their medical reports, up nine percent from May.

Source:
OPTIMISM ABOUT STATE OF ECONOMY
Yellen Paves Way For Interest Rate Hike
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In a speech Friday at the Federal Reserve's Jackson Hole summit, Fed chair Janet Yellen sounded an optimistic tone about the state of the American economy, before implying that a hike in interest rates is on the horizon. The Fed "continues to anticipate that gradual increases in the federal funds rate will be appropriate over time to achieve and sustain employment and inflation near our statutory objectives," Yellen said in her address.

Source:
10 CASES
Study Finds Little Evidence of Voter Fraud
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

While politicians argue over whether or not to be worried about potential voter fraud come November, a study tells us it is not a legitimate concern. "A News21 analysis four years ago of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases in 50 states found that while some fraud had occurred since 2000, the rate was infinitesimal compared with the 146 million registered voters in that 12-year span. The analysis found only 10 cases of voter impersonation, the only kind of fraud that could be prevented by voter ID at the polls."

Source:
$7.3 MILLION IN JULY
Donations to DNC Relied on ‘Workaround’
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The Democratic National Committee's "influx of money" in July "owes in part to an unprecedented workaround of political spending limits that lets the party tap into millions of dollars more" from Hillary Clinton’s biggest donors. "At least $7.3 million of the DNC’s July total originated with payments from hundreds of major donors who had already contributed the maximum $33,400 to the national committee." Those payments were "first bundled by the Hillary Victory Fund and then transferred to the state Democratic parties, which effectively stripped the donors’ names and sent the money to the DNC as a lump sum."

Source:
OFF COAST OF HAWAII
Obama Creates World’s Largest Protected Reserve
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

President Obama this morning "created the largest protected area on the planet Friday, by expanding a national marine monument off the coast of his native Hawaii to encompass 582,578 square miles of land and sea."

Source:
×