Obamacare Enrollment Deadline Extended

A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange internet site October 1, 2013 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Sam Baker and Sophie Novack
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Sam Baker Sophie Novack
Nov. 22, 2013, 9:04 a.m.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pushed back an­oth­er Obama­care dead­line Fri­day, giv­ing con­sumers an ex­tra week to sign up for cov­er­age that be­gins on Jan. 1.

The Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices said Fri­day that the sign-up date for cov­er­age to be­gin Jan. 1 will be moved from Dec. 15 to Dec. 23. The fi­nal dead­line to sign up isn’t un­til March.

Some stake­hold­ers have spec­u­lated that CMS might delay the March 31 en­roll­ment cutoff, giv­ing con­sumers more time to sign up be­cause the prob­lems with Health­Care.gov ef­fect­ively shaved off one month from the en­roll­ment win­dow. CMS Com­mu­nic­a­tions Dir­ect­or Ju­lie Ba­taille said CMS is not con­sid­er­ing that op­tion “at this time.”

Ex­tend­ing the Dec. 15 dead­line to Dec. 23 will squeeze in­sur­ance com­pan­ies, who are still grap­pling with bad in­form­a­tion com­ing from the back end of Health­Care.gov.

“It makes it more chal­len­ging to pro­cess en­roll­ments in time for cov­er­age to be­gin on Jan. 1. Ul­ti­mately it will de­pend on how many people en­roll in those last few days,” said Robert Zirkel­bach, a spokes­man for Amer­ica’s Health In­sur­ance Plans.

The change was made “in con­sulta­tion with” the in­sur­ance in­dustry, Ba­taille said.

The on­go­ing prob­lems with Health­Care.gov have pre­ven­ted many from en­rolling in cov­er­age, and the short time frame be­fore the ori­gin­al Dec. 15 dead­line raised con­cerns about people hav­ing enough time to get on the site and suc­cess­fully find a plan. The ex­ten­sion to Dec. 23 could in­dic­ate a lack of con­fid­ence that the web­site will be fully func­tion­al by the end of Novem­ber.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has set the end of Novem­ber as the goal to have the fed­er­al on­line ex­change work­ing smoothly for the “vast ma­jor­ity of users,” which was later cla­ri­fied to mean 80 per­cent of con­sumers. Yet there have been doubts re­cently as to wheth­er that dead­line will be met.

Jeff Zi­ents, the former White House budget dir­ect­or who is co­ordin­at­ing the Health­Care.gov re­pair ef­fort, told re­port­ers that CMS is “on track” to meet its goals for the end of Novem­ber. By the end of the month, the site will be able to handle 50,000 users at once — the goal it was sup­posed to meet when it launched, Zi­ents said.

When more than 50,000 people try to use the site at once, and the site can’t handle it, users will be able to re­quest an email telling them when it’s OK to try again, Zi­ents said.

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