Obama Administration Extends ACA Sign-Ups For Some

By  //  March 26, 2014


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DEADLINE DELAY BASED ON 'HONOR SYSTEM'

ACA DEADLINE

The ACA open enrollment deadline for healthcare coverage has been pushed out at least two weeks for people who tried to enroll but were foiled by Healthcare.gov technical problems.

Late Tuesday night, the Obama administration announced that it was delaying the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA, aka Obamacare) open enrollment March 31 deadline, lighting up the major national newspapers, websites, and beltway publications.

According to a front page report in the New York Times, with the official March 31 deadline looming, the Obama Administration now says it will allow people who tried to enroll for qualified healthcare coverage but were foiled by Healthcare.gov technical problems more time to apply. Under the Administration plan, “some people will be given a special enrollment period, beyond the March 31 deadline, if they can show they were not able to enroll because of an error by the federal exchange or by the Department of Health and Human Services.”

PEOPLE SEEKING EXTENSION ON ‘HONOR SYSTEM’

Also on its front page, the Washington Post reported that Administration officials verified “all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension.”

Anyone seeking an extension need only check a blue box on the website to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. The Post notes that the method “will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth.”

ADMINISTRATION PREVIOUSLY ASSURED: ‘NO DEADLINE DELAY’

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency responsible for administering Obamacare, spokeswoman Julie Bataille told USA TODAY that, “Open enrollment ends March 31. We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment—either online or over the phone.”

Testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee earlier this month, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said categorically that the administration would not extend the initial ACA six-month open enrollment period, scheduled to end March 31, but the Obama Administration has done just that.

Testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee earlier this month, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said categorically that the administration would not extend the initial ACA six-month open enrollment period, scheduled to end March 31, but the Obama Administration has done just that.

In other words, Health and Human Services and the CMS aren’t officially changing the March 31 individual qualified health plan enrollment period for everyone, but they will make a special enrollment period available to consumers who start the individual plan application process by March 31 and fail to complete the process by that date.

Although Administration officials maintain that they are simply giving consumers who may be interested in insurance, but have not yet selected or paid for coverage, an extra two weeks to complete the arduous enrollment process, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and others in the Administration previously said flatly that the deadline would not be delayed.  Americans are becoming increasingly used to the Administration’s irresolute approach to the ACA narrative, making this deadline delay certainly not unexpected.

WHAT OTHER ACA CHANGES ARE IN STORE BEFORE NOVEMBER? 

In the face of the ACA’s very rocky 5-month implementation, enrollment numbers far below projected targets and polls showing a wide majority opposition to the law, it’s no surprise that the Obama Administration has again changed a provision of the law to appease what is estimated could be millions of applicants in a critical mid-term election year.

Under current ACA rules, consumers who do not qualify for a special enrollment period would not be able to start new applications for coverage from April 1 through Nov. 15, when the plan open enrollment period for 2015 coverage is set to begin. The multiple Obamacare rule changes emanating from the Administration over the past two years begs the question: What other changes by executive fiat are in store for the healthcare law before November? (Pear, New York Times, 3/26; Goldstein, Washington Post, 3/26; Kennedy, USA TODAY, 3/26)


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