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
Add to Briefcase
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 »
STRIKES DOWN NEW HAMPSHIRE BAN
Court: Selfies in Voting Booth Now OK
1 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
WILL LEAD U.S. DELEGATION
Obama to Travel to Israel for Peres’s Funeral
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS
FOUR-POINT LEAD IN FOUR-WAY RACE
Reuters/Ipsos Shows Clinton Ahead by 6
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

In one of the first polls released since Monday night's debate, a Reuters/Ipsos survey shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump 44%-38%. When third-party candidates are thrown into the mix, Clinton's share of the vote drops to 42%, with Gary Johnson picking up 7% and Jill Stein at 2%.

Source:
NO SHUTDOWN
Senate Votes to Fund Government
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Senate voted on Wednesday 72-26 on a bill to fund the government through Dec. 9, averting a looming shutdown. The legislation will now go to the House, where it could be voted on as early as Wednesday. After this legislation is approved by the House, Congress will recess until the lame-duck session following elections.

FIRST OVERRIDE OF HIS PRESIDENCY
House Completes Override of Obama Veto
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Congress voted Wednesday to override President Obama for the first time in his eight-year tenure, as the House followed the Senate in rejecting a veto of legislation allowing families of terrorist victims to sue Saudi Arabia. The House easily cleared the two-thirds threshold to push back against the veto. The final tally was 348-77, with 18 Republicans and 59 Democrats voting no."

Source:
×