You Probably Missed The Latest ObamaCare Deadline Extension Announcement
Late on Christmas Eve, the Obama Administration extended the sign up period for insurance that would be effective January 1st yet again:
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Tuesday that it would provide more time for people to complete their applications for health insurance if they could show that they missed the deadline because of problems with the federal health care website.
The move was the latest in a series of deadline changes, exemptions and clarifications that have confused insurers and many Americans and opened the administration to increasing criticism from Republicans who have opposed the Affordable Care Act from the start and have repeatedly tried to overturn it.
It was not clear on Tuesday how many people would be affected, or how consumers would prove that website errors had prevented them from signing up by the deadline on Tuesday night.
The announcement itself was vague, saying only that if website problems had prevented any consumers from enrolling, they might qualify for what the government has called “a special enrollment period.” The administration did not say how long that would last. Nor did it define what website errors might be involved.
Republicans said the announcement — coming a day after the federal website recorded more than two million visits — showed that President Obama was desperate to increase enrollment, widely seen as a measure of the success of the health care law.
For their part, administration officials said the move was a common-sense response to heavy traffic on the website, which they cited as evidence of a huge need for more affordable insurance. Some 48 million Americans are uninsured. Many could qualify for subsidized coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Tara McGuinness, a White House spokeswoman, said the administration was not providing “a blanket extension,” but was offering to provide “assistance to individuals on a case-by-case basis.”
And Kurt DelBene, the new troubleshooter for the site, said it was performing well. “With the highest volumes we have seen to date, response time is fast, and the error rate is low,” he said.
The move did not mollify insurers who have grown concerned as new problems have erupted since the rollout on Oct. 1 and are worried about how they will be able to provide coverage for everyone who wants it by Jan. 1, when that coverage is supposed to go into effect.
“The goal posts keep moving,” William G. Schiffbauer, a lawyer who represents insurance companies, said Tuesday evening. “That raises questions about whether insurers can collect premiums in a timely manner to pay claims from doctors and hospitals.”
“The latest step creates confusion for consumers and insurers,” he added.
It’s unclear exactly how the powers-that-be believe they’ll able to determine that someone who claims that they were unable to signup by Tuesday night due to website issues is actually telling the truth, just as its difficult to know how a person making such a claim would be able to prove the truth of their assertions. What will most likely end up happening, of course, is that they’re likely to treat anyone who calls a help center or tries to use the website between now and January 1st as being eligible for the extension. As noted, that’s not likely to please insurance companies that already report that they’re facing something administrative nightmares in trying to comply with the continual extensions of the filing deadline for January 1st eligibility.
In any case, this really doesn’t come as a surprise. Indeed, for the reasons I noted on Monday, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more extensions between now and January 1st.