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Yet Another ObamaCare Deadline Extended

congress-healthcare

The Obama Administration has extended yet another deadline related to the Affordable Care Act, although for the moment only for a matter of a day:

WASHINGTON — The White House has decided to allow an extra 24 hours for people to sign up for insurance on HealthCare.gov, through the end of the day Tuesday, to receive coverage beginning on Jan. 1, according to a senior official familiar with the change.

The official deadline for getting insurance remains 11:59 p.m. on Monday. But because of record traffic on the website Monday morning, officials wanted to reassure the public — and themselves — that people who sought coverage in good faith would be covered. The extension was first reported by The Washington Post.

The official said the administration does not want to encourage people to wait until Tuesday to come to the website, because it fears more record numbers.

“We recognize that many have chosen to make their final decisions on today’s deadline, and we are committed to making sure they can do so,” said Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Anticipating high demand and the fact that consumers may be enrolling from multiple time zones, we have taken steps to make sure that those who select a plan through tomorrow will get coverage for Jan. 1.”

An administration official said the extension would allow officials to “handle heavy online traffic or other technical issues.” The website has been plagued by technical problems since it was launched on Oct. 1.

A queuing system, or waiting room, kicked in early Monday to handle what officials said was the highest volume of traffic the site has seen since it opened. That should keep the site from crashing by asking people to return at a time when the site is less crowded.

But officials said they wanted to accommodate everyone who wanted to get insurance, much as polling places try to stay open later on election night to accommodate those who are already in line to vote when the polls officially close.

People calling the federal exchange on Monday morning were greeted with a recorded message that said: “Welcome to the health insurance marketplace. We are currently experiencing longer-than-normal hold time. Do you need coverage for Jan. 1? Please stay on the line, as your call is important to us.”

The government told callers to be prepared for a long wait. “If you are using a cell or cordless phone, make sure it’s fully charged,” the message said.

This deadline had already been extended once before. Originally, the cut off for enrolling in a plan that would become effective on January 1st was supposed to have been December 15th. However, in large part due to the fact that large numbers of people were prevented from even shopping for policies for the first eight weeks of the enrollment period, the decision was made to extend that deadline for an additional eight days to today. Additionally, an applicant does not need to actually pay their premium until January 10th even though the policy would be effective on January 1st, however to be fair I am not sure if this is an extension that was granted after the  marketplaces went live or a policy that had already been established.

In any case, though, the extension that was announced today was apparently an implicit acknowledgment that at the very least the Federal Exchange web site was having trouble handling the traffic that has been hitting it today, and that many consumers were encountering delays both in trying to get something accomplished online and in their efforts to contact the so-called Help Desk via telephone or other means. This was after reassurances over the weekend that the website was indeed ready to handle the expected rush of traffic today, a rush that will likely continue into tomorrow.Will this lead to yet another extension past Christmas? Don’t be surprised if it does.

Quite honestly, I’ve lost count at this point of how many actual extensions and delays there have been associated to various provisions of the PPACA, but one has to imagine that it’s something that doesn’t bode very well for the public reputation of the law. At the very least, it seems to play into the idea that the law, and the government agencies set up to administer it, still isn’t ready for prime time. As long as that perception continues, it seems unlikely that public confidence in the law will increase very much unless and until it becomes apparent that it is operating the way it was supposedly intended to operate. Indeed, given the way things have been going since October, the logical conclusion for people thinking about signing up for coverage, as well as those who are considering doing so, is that there will be further delays coming up in the future. In that case, of course, you’re likely to see people react as many human beings would and just put off doing anything for now. The only good news for the Obama Administration is that this news is coming out on a day when a lot of people are, most likely, not really paying attention to the news. In the end, though, they’ll be forced to pay attention if the New Year comes and the system still isn’t operating properly.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. JKB says:

    Turns out settled law of the land…. more like whimsical guidelines.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

  2. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    “If you like your deadlines, you can keep your deadlines. Period.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 7

  3. al-Ameda says:

    Dis anybody give Darrell Issa a heads-up?
    This might be an impeachable offense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

  4. Stonetools says:

    A one day extension? Seriously? Is this the best that Bad News Doug could do? In other news, there is a huge surge in traffic on the Obamacare website as hundreds of thousands try to sign up for the product that Doug thinks they can do better without.
    BTW, there is something like a concern trolling record? Because Doug must surely be closing in on it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  5. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Stonetools: Didn’t you hear? ObamaCare Is The Law Of The Land, unless Obama says otherwise. If you want to know what the law means at any given moment, check with the White House. And even then there’s no guarantee how long that interpretation will last.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 10

  6. David M says:

    @Stonetools:

    Technically it’s not even an extension, just handling the ones that are actually in line on Dec 23rd but don’t check out until the 24th. This adjustment doesn’t matter if f they don’t start the process today.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  7. edmondo says:

    If Obama can change the deadlines, definitions and penalties of the ACA at whim and will, why doesn’t he just get rid of the insurance companies altogether and say that Obamacare is now Medicare for all?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 10

  8. rudderpedals says:

    What’s the difference between the author’s position and a slavish, spiteful devotion to arbitrary deadlines no matter the consequence?
    I suppose some people can only be happy when someone else gets a lump of coal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  9. Gustopher says:

    The rule of law is being undermined!

    It’s like living in the Wild West where Doc Holiday was roving around practicing dentistry, except instead of dentistry, it’s internal medicine!

    Who will save us from this lawless tyranny of medical care?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  10. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    ObamaCare Is The Law Of The Land,

    Can you show us that Obama simply does not have legal authority to make the extension? (I really have no idea).

    After all, one of the things an executive does is adjust programs, policies, initiatives, etc. to make things work. (I realize your experience with executives may be limited to asking “do you want fries with that”).

    A President’s power, while not unlimited, is considerable. Can you show Obama exceeded his lawful authority? If not, why are you wasting pixels?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  11. JKB says:

    …consumers may be enrolling from multiple time zones,

    So, apparently, the website can’t handle the fact the country exists in multiple time zones. Rookie programming mistake but common in federal projects. For some reason, that there is a world outside the Beltway confuses the DC based bureaucrats and contractors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  12. bill says:

    @Stonetools: i thought there was well over 10 million who needed obamacare? shoot high, aim low?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  13. steve s says:

    There are millions of people who need Obamacare. Like me. If Obamacare’s medicaid expansion was accepted by Florida, I’d have health care. Because of Rick Scott and the Florida legislature, I don’t.

    I know who I blame for the situation. And it ain’t Obama.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  14. Tony W says:

    Love how our staunch states-rights conservatives complain that the law they wrote exists, and that it was upheld by the supreme court, and that its provisions are so popular, and that some elements are delayed, and that its website doesn’t serve its customers well enough – even while forcing their own red-state constituents to the federal system they hate. Meanwhile blue-state liberals have great systems like Covered California that do their job well and save folks a ton of money.

    It is like having a 2 year old in the house. At some point we just stop listening to the whining.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  15. Woody says:

    Considering how difficult it is for an entity to implement such a complex service even when half the entity isn’t doing its damndest to sabotage said service, the rollout resembles the Romneycare experience rather closely. Delays are inevitable, and a 24-hour one is unremarkable.

    It will be interesting to watch the con job that the rightwing wurlitzer will sell when the ACA becomes popular. As most Murdoch consumers are unaware that their favored party is devoted to looting Social Security and destroying Medicare, my guess is that the con will work amazingly well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  16. Dave Schuler says:

    Doug, I think you’re operating under a misconception. The PPACA isn’t a contract. It isn’t even a roadmap. It’s more like a guideline. It’s aspirational. The details will be filled in as required.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    If only Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Paul Ryan had written the PPACA and President Romney been in charge of it’s roll out, none of these infinite complexities would have been a problem at all. They’d have gone straight to the screwing of the lesser classes without all this song and dance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  18. TarianinMO says:

    Sabotage said service? I don’t think Repubs needed to sabotage this one. It did it on its own.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  19. stonetools says:

    The Conservative hypocrisy about the rule of law reeks to high heaven here. lets skip over the fact that conservatives were mostly quiet over the rule of law during the Bush years, when they weren’t cheering the Administration on. Where was conservative concern with the rule of aw when they were calling the US debt into question with their tactics over the debt ceiling? Apparently , if you are trying to cut the social safety net or extort more tax cuts for billionaires, the rule of law isn’t an issue.
    Ostensible conservative concern with the rule of law seems to have began on October 1 when the Obama Administration began delivering health insurance to the poor and working class. Then conservatives who were fine with torture, illegal war making and debt ceiling shenanigans suddenly became concerned with every minor adjustment and delay in the implementation of the ACA. The reason, as Doug concedes, is obvious-because they want the law returned to the legislative arena so they can sabotage it. Well, boo f^&king ho. That train has left the station.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  20. stonetools says:

    @TarianinMO:

    Then you should be completely OK with standing back and letting the law fail on its own. Except that its “failing ” to the tune of surging enrollment-which is why these delays so that people who want to can apply. Heh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  21. michael reynolds says:

    This is how it started in Germany. First Hitler extended the deadlines for registering for health care. Then: Holocaust.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  22. Woody says:

    @stonetools:

    I’m quite certain these Principled Conservatives have told off their friends and family members who now have insurance (or whose young adult children now have insurance).

    Just like they would have challenged the Gestapo, you know.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  23. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    ObamaCare Is The Law Of The Land

    I’ve seen other Republicans spouting this same idea after the GOP spectacularly and predictably failed in their attempt to defund Obamacare. I would like to point out that there are two groups in Congress:

    1. Those who wish to keep improving Obamacare, so it doesn’t cause needless problems for Americans
    2. Those who refuse to make any improvements to Obamacare, in the hopes that it causes problems for Americans

    It takes a special kind of sociopath to see the second as the reasonable stance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  24. al-Ameda says:

    @michael reynolds:

    This is how it started in Germany. First Hitler extended the deadlines for registering for health care. Then: Holocaust.

    and in an interesting parallel to Obama, Hitler wasn’t even from Germany. If only people had listened to the Geburtsers

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @al-Ameda:
    Hah! Upvote for geburtsers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  26. bill says:

    @Tony W: you could switch a few words and apply that to the gun control nuts too. but i don’t recall that any republicans wrote (let alone voted for) this plan?!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  27. rudderpedals says:

    Turns out Sebelius’s bunch did better than Valve on dealing with an effective DOSsing by traffic volume. At least the healthcare.gov site sat you in a queue for 3 or 4 minutes at worst and then took you to the pretty snazzy interface to do whatever.

    Compare with http://store.steampowered.com/app/550/ where Valve is trying to give away Left for Dead 2. The entire site is hosed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  28. Tony W says:

    @bill: Not sure of your point here Bill. Reasonable gun control is not the law of the land, and Democrats have made no progress making it so. I’d be right there with you if the Republicans passed a law requiring registration of all guns, forbade private party selling without registration updates, implemented waiting periods, etc. – then the Democrats complained about it, and fought its implementation at every level, working to return our nation to the lawless state of gun running and mass shootings that we enjoy today.

    In the ACAs case, this is substantially the concept that the conservative Heritage Foundation proposed:

    The concept goes back to at least 1989, when the conservative Heritage Foundation proposed an individual mandate as an alternative to single-payer health care.

    The concept was then tested under a Republican governor (Mitt Romney) in Massachusetts where it has enjoyed resounding success and popularity.

    Naturally, being the party of family values, the Republicans disavowed the idea as soon as Mr. Obama’s name became associated with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0