Last-minute Health Insurance Shoppers Get 1-Day Extension

obamacare signup extension
Alan Diaz/APEnrollment specialist Richelle Baker, right, talks to Martha Medina, left, and her daughter Martha, both from Hialeah, Fla., at a Healthcare Insurance Marketplace office in Miami last Friday.
By CARLA K. JOHNSON

CHICAGO -- Anticipating heavy traffic on the government's health care website, the Obama administration extended Monday's deadline for signing up for insurance by a day, giving Americans in 36 states more time to select a plan.

It was the latest in a series of pushed-back deadlines and delays that have marked the rollout of the health care law.

But federal officials urged buyers not to procrastinate.

"You should not wait until tomorrow. If you are aiming to get coverage Jan. 1, you should try to sign up today," said Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the federal agency in charge of the overhaul.

Bataille said the grace period -- which runs through Tuesday -- was being offered to accommodate people from different time zones and to allow for any technical problems that might result from a last-minute rush of applicants.

The HealthCare.gov site had a disastrous, glitch-prone debut in October but has gone through extensive improvements to make it more reliable and increase its capacity, and the administration said the system was running well Monday.

By the afternoon, the site had received a record 850,000 visits, five times the number logged by the same time last Monday, the administration said. Bataille said the system was handling the volume with error rates of less than 1 in 200 and response times of less than one second.

The Obama administration is hoping for a surge of year-end enrollments to show that the technical problems were merely a temporary setback. That would also go a long way toward easing concerns that insurance companies won't be able to sign up enough young, healthy people to keep prices low for everyone.

But the grace period may have been a tacit acknowledgement that the website remains vulnerable to heavy traffic. What's more, the delay offered critics of "Obamacare" another opportunity to argue that the law still isn't working and that President Barack Obama keeps changing the rules.

New Deadline?

In Ohio, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor called the deadline extension "a clear sign Healthcare.gov continues to struggle."

"Consumers are already confused and insurers are overwhelmed with the administration's last-minute changes, yet there seems to be no end in sight,"
said Taylor, a Republican who heads Ohio's insurance department.

The administration was careful not to characterize Tuesday as a new deadline or an extension, likening the move instead to the Election Day practice in which people who are in line when the polls close are still allowed to vote.

Monday had been the deadline for Americans in the 36 states served by the federal site to sign up if they wanted coverage at the start of the new year. The remaining states operate their own online marketplaces, and some of them have also extended their deadlines.

As the deadline drew near, more than 1 million people visited the website over the weekend, and a federal call center received more than 200,000 calls.

Roger Colyn, 60, of Des Moines, Iowa, was happy when he left his Monday morning appointment with a state enrollment navigator. She helped him sign up for a "silver" plan that will cost him $10.79 in monthly premiums after government aid is factored in.

"I feel relieved," Colyn said.

Others said they will let the date pass without making a decision.

"I'm in no hurry, though it'd be nice to be able to visit a doctor without stress," said Kyle Eichenberger, an uninsured 34-year-old from Oak Park, Ill., who said he hit a wall on the website when he first tried to enroll early on.

"I'm an Obamacare supporter, though I think it is full of problems," Eichenberger said. "I'd like to see the whole system streamlined to be more user-friendly. Keep the basic idea, but don't make me feel like I'm navigating a maze to get a simple checkup."

Processing Applications

The government's original deadline already had been pushed back a week because of the website problems. The extra day will add to the already daunting administrative problems that insurance companies face, such as inaccuracies on applications, said industry consultant Robert Laszewski.

"Insurers would like to have two to three weeks to process applications. Now they're going to have a week, less one more day," he said. "When the day is done, it doesn't help."

The president himself signed up for coverage through the government site over the weekend -- a purely symbolic move since he will continue to get health care through the military as commander in chief. He chose a less-expensive "bronze" plan.

Obama said on Friday that more than 1 million Americans had enrolled for coverage since Oct. 1. The administration's estimates call for 3.3 million to sign up by Dec. 31, and the target is 7 million by the end of March. After that, people who fail to buy coverage can face tax penalties.

Minnesota, one of the states running their own insurance exchanges, extended its Monday deadline to Dec. 31 amid problems with its website and extra-long hold times to reach its help center. Maryland pushed back its cutoff date to Dec. 27. New York extended its deadline to midnight Tuesday.

Nevada stuck to its Monday deadline, and enrollment counselors there reported a surge of interest.

"We have people lined up out our door. We still have walk-ins, people are asking for help. Our phones are ringing nonstop," said Andres Ramirez in Las Vegas.

In Connecticut, which also kept to a Monday deadline, Ronshelle McIntyre, a 41-year-old mother from New Britain, arrived at a state-run insurance store around 9:30 a.m., and by noontime, she was among about 40 people waiting to speak with a specialist. Some were told the wait could be two hours or more.

"I don't mind," said the mother of three. "For health insurance, I think all it's going to cost me is a little bit of time and patience to get it plugged up, you know?"

-Associated Press writers Josh Lederman in Honolulu; Sandra Chereb in Carson City, Nev.; Susan Haigh in Hartford, Conn.; Catherine Lucey in Des Moines, Iowa; Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Patrick Condon in St. Paul, Minn.; Brian Witte in Annapolis, Md.; Michael Virtanen in Albany, N.Y.; Ann Sanner in Columbus, Ohio; and Donna Blankinship in Seattle contributed to this report.


Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Understanding Credit Scores

Credit scores matter -- learn how to improve your score.

View Course »

What is Inflation?

Why do prices go up?

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

17 Comments

Filter by:
betty_brock

Obamacare is subsidized by the taxpayers. Give us a break.

December 24 2013 at 9:15 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
betty_brock

Your time is up.

December 24 2013 at 8:35 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
happy2bgridfree

This is off-topic ( I just posted a comment ) but I want to say that I am so glad that there is still a forum where people can post comments without being forced to link to a Facebook account.

:-(~ to Huff Post. The baloney about linking to your Facebook account in an effort to keep the boards "civil" is baloney. It's about gathering your personal info. That's my opinion.

December 24 2013 at 10:42 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to happy2bgridfree's comment
gvick1001

Exactly why I closed my account.

December 24 2013 at 11:56 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
happy2bgridfree

It was a nightmare signing up through the website, but my husband and I finally got through and are signed up.

Our old policy ( that was available through my husband's job ) was cancelled because it was a "junk" policy. He was paying through the nose for a policy that basically covered NOTHING. Yeah, the insurance companies made big bucks selling these crappy "junk" policies and the consumer got screwed when they actually needed the insurance and got smacked with the uncovered medical bills.

Now, for about a third less than what we paid before, we have a great policy. I was shocked when I saw what it covers.

Yes, the website was a mess and the implementation of the ACA was rocky ... but this is a good thing. Get on the website, compare the policies. Do your research and SIGN UP.

There are actually Bronze plans that can cost you NOTHING. For a younger, healthy person, the Bronze plans are probably fine. Even if the deductible is higher, it will probably still be much less than being uninsured, walking into the ER when you DO have a problem and racking up thousands and thousands of dollars that either you pay ..... or the rest of us do if you walk away from your bills.

December 24 2013 at 10:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dndxportbroker

"Roger Colyn, 60, of Des Moines, Iowa, was happy when he left his Monday morning appointment with a state enrollment navigator. She helped him sign up for a "silver" plan that will cost him $10.79 in monthly premiums after government aid is factored in."
What is Government Aid? You must ask yourself the question "Where does the government get money?" The truth is from working tax paying Americans and corporations. So in reality, there is no government aid. Only aid from those that choose to work and support themselves. However, now all working people must also support those that refuse with health care. This is in addition to the housing, food, and welfare already being taken from the workers. For example, my health benefits dropped, deductible went up, and the premium went up over $200 per month. I suppose this will be distributed in "government aid" to others like Mr. Colyn. The American dream has been crushed by the left in order to support their Socialist agenda. God (first save) then Bless America.

December 24 2013 at 10:19 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
buddyboygabe

law keep changing, from day after days, and certainly shows that, this \"train wreck\" with an over 20,000 pages of new regulations, HHS and O\'s are clueless! That\'s Y\', \"cherry picking changes\" being made, no wonder, most of insurance companies, doctors, hospitals are frustrated in this program!

December 24 2013 at 10:04 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
carmen.nicolari

Note to obama,and the IRS....shove obama care up your ass...I didn't vote for this worthless fraud, I didn't want, nor support obama care from the start. I want nothing to do with this corrupt, vile, disgusting administration, so any letter or fine you plan to send me, just roll it up and stick it where the sun doesn't shine. With any luck, a giant tsunami will sweep this unqualified, pathological liar, obama out to sea.

December 24 2013 at 9:48 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to carmen.nicolari's comment
Mickylitz

Very good carmen,,,i second that .

December 24 2013 at 10:33 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
kd485

A couple of things many do not know is that the \"network of doctors are not the same between plans and that many of the more \"affordable\" do not have any of the better doctors or hospitals on them! Also they do not know that the deductalbe is charged first before the out of pocket kicks in, so if you have a 5000 dollar deductable and a 6000 dollar out of pocket the total for a hospital stay of a couple of days would be 11,000 dolars, and that is as long as you use in network doctors and hospitals, if you do not those do not count towards your deductable or out of pocket and are extra on top of the 11,000, good luck!

December 24 2013 at 9:23 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
linda31

Congrats Dems on really screwing up HC for the majority, for the minority.]
Wealth redistribution !
Shame on anyone who voted for this !

December 24 2013 at 9:19 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
Legacydistro

Anything to complete the Great American runover called ACA. Government will mess this up, too. Obama, you can keep you healthcare overhaul, period! PS. It\'s not about healthcare, it\'s about redistribution of money from those who work and worked to the parasites of our society.

December 24 2013 at 9:14 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Legacydistro's comment
jdykbpl45

Obama is the chief parasite.

December 24 2013 at 9:53 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Mickylitz

Legacy Distro ...

People who cannot see the redistribution process GOING FORWARD ( to use Obama favorite two words ) need to have their heads examined.
He is killing the American way of life.

December 24 2013 at 10:29 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply