Obamacare Deadline Keeps Getting Delayed, Even As Enrollment Skyrockets

Dec 25 2013, 5:11am CST | by

Obamacare Deadline Keeps Getting Delayed, Even As Enrollment Skyrockets
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

About 20% of us are chronic procrastinators, though even more of us will delay when we really, really don’t want to do something.

And signing up for health insurance—a multi-step process of completing forms and checking boxes, filled with terms we don’t understand—probably qualifies.

So it’s no surprise that a flurry of customers spent Monday and Tuesday rushing to sign up for Obamacare health insurance plans that take effect on January 1, just hours ahead of a midnight deadline on Christmas Eve. And it’s not a shock, either, that the White House is again showing flexibility on when customers can sign up, subtly signaling that it will offer a “special enrollment period” for anyone who tried to use the insurance exchanges and ran into technical problems or delays.

Huge Demand in December

But in recent days, the exchanges proved to be up to the challenge of dealing with huge traffic—and reported huge enrollment numbers as a result.

HealthCare.gov, the website that serves 36 state insurance exchanges, received a record 2 million visits on Monday, although officials haven’t yet said how many people signed up.

At least 750,000 people have used the federal exchange to sign up for coverage in December, the Washington Post reported this weekend.

Individual state exchanges also shared robust numbers ahead of their deadlines.

  • California saw more than 25,000 sign-ups for private health insurance on Monday, the last day to buy coverage that takes effect on January 1. (For comparison, the state’s exchange saw about 2,000 people sign up per day between October and November.) Overall, more than 250,000 Californians signed up for private plans during December.
  • New York saw nearly 20,000 sign-ups on Monday. Since December 9, about 107,000 New Yorkers have signed up for private plans, more than the total number of sign-ups between October 1 and December 8.

Despite the surge in Obamacare enrollments, the slow start and technical problems across October and November means that the White House will likely miss its initial projections.

The administration anticipated that 3.3 million people would use the exchanges to purchase private plans that take effect on January 1; however, the latest available data from acasignups.net and my own tracking suggests that about 2 million had used the exchanges to sign up for private coverage through the weekend.

Didn’t Apply for Obamacare in Time? You Might Be in Luck

Although Christmas Eve was the re-revised deadline to sign up for coverage through HealthCare.gov—the White House originally announced that December 15 was the cut-off, then pushed it back to December 23 before delaying yet again—officials on Tuesday said they would help those who had technical problems trying to enroll.

According to a blog post at HealthCare.gov, here’s how laggards can plead their case:

Contact the Marketplace call center at 1-800-318-2596 (available 24/7; closed December 25). TTY: 1-855-889-4325.

Tell our customer service representative that you’ve been trying to enroll and explain why you couldn’t finish by the deadline. They can tell you what you can do to finish your enrollment and still get covered for 2014.

White House spokeswoman Tara McGuinness said the administration will provide “assistance to individuals on a case-by-case basis”—and not a blanket extension, Robert Pear at the New York Times reports.

But in some states, the deadline to sign up for January 1 coverage is still several days away, according to Jeffrey Young at the Huffington Post, who’s been tracking the rolling deadlines.

Residents of Maryland and Oregon—which have run two of the most problem-plagued insurance exchanges—can enroll for coverage through Friday, Dec. 27; residents of Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island can sign up through Dec. 31; and residents of Washington state who began the enrollment process by yesterday have three more weeks to complete their applications in time to get coverage that takes effect on January 1.

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

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