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Deadline Nears For Enrollment In Affordable Health Care Act Plans
Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesA young woman talks with an insurance agent as she purchases insurance under the Affordable Care Act at a mall in Miami.
By John Tozzi

More than half of uninsured American adults don't know when the deadline is to sign up for health coverage and avoid a penalty under the Affordable Care Act, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Thanks to the White House's latest 11th-hour change to the law, the rest of us don't know either.

People who start but don't complete the application process by midnight on March 31 -- long thought to be the deadline -- will have extra time to enroll, the administration announced Wednesday.

How will the government verify that latecomers actually tried to enroll earlier? It won't, according to The Washington Post, which broke the story of the latest delay Tuesday night. "People will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on HealthCare.gov. ... This method will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth."

Some states running health insurance marketplaces independent of HealthCare.gov, including Maryland and Nevada, have loosened their own deadlines. The grace period may be good for consumers, especially if heavy traffic clogs HealthCare.gov and prevents them from signing up by Monday. The change is terrible for the Obama administration's credibility, already battered by months of delays and modifications to Obamacare.

The White House has long insisted March 31 was the final, drop-dead deadline for open enrollment in 2014, even as it changed or delayed other elements of the law.
"Open enrollment ends on March 31, and in fact we don't actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014," Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told reporters on a March 11 conference call.

Michael Hash, director of the Office of Health Reform, responding to a follow-up question, said:

"The statute actually directs the secretary [of health and human services] to establish the dates for open enrollment in the first year, that's 2014 open enrollment, by no later than June 2012. ... Once that 2014 open enrollment period has been set ... they are set permanently for 2014. We do not believe we have the authority to extend that period beyond March 31, and as Julie said, we have no plans to do so."

In a briefing with reporters on Wednesday, administration officials were sticking to their story -- the enrollment period would close March 31 except for those people who were "in line" before the deadline. "Any consumer who comes in after April 1 will have to attest to the fact that they were in line and are eligible to continue their enrollment," Bataille said. Absent any additional verification by the government, all that entails is checking the blue box, which effectively allows people to enroll late with no consequences.

Bataille said the government couldn't predict how long the window for latecomers would remain open. "It could take a few days, it could take a week or so," she said.

Insurance companies aren't thrilled about the shifting deadlines -- if your business is managing risk, you tend to prefer certainty, after all. Clare Krusing, a spokeswoman for America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry lobby group, said in an email that people who were stymied signing up should be able to get coverage. But the industry wants the next deadline to stick. "The new special open enrollment period needs to be limited to a defined period of time with a clear end date," Krusing wrote. "This helps to ensure there is an incentive for people to enroll."


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15 Comments

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carsue999

If you dont want insurance dont get it. You wont go to jail. who cares pay the fine dont pay the fine. If you get shot, get cancer or Ebola, then go to your nearest hospital and pay cash for your services. Simple.

March 29 2014 at 11:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to carsue999's comment
Dale

Then what do we do about illegal aliens...oh I'm sorry immigrants that are misunderstood who use the ER's and don't pay? Oh I know taxpayers just pick up tab....How about explaining why Congress and the President exempted themselves from this law. If its great for us ..then they should be mandated to accept it too...Very simple to me working in healthcare field

March 30 2014 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rochester

Posting all the PRO LIBERAL OBAMA CRAP on AOL is why they (aol) are loosing all their members !!

March 29 2014 at 11:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rochester

HY do you DEFEND this President ??? He will go down in HISTORY AS THE WORSE president in the history of America!!

March 29 2014 at 11:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bruce

This is a joke, right? How can you tell people in the Obama administration are lying? They move their lips?

March 29 2014 at 8:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
fmgi54

tears

March 28 2014 at 10:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mjliles

I'm not signing up for this crap and they can't force me to either. Because thats against the constitution competely. The surpreme court to uphold the laws not make them! To many fools in the wood pile.

March 28 2014 at 10:11 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
dijeqarawy

At this point, people simply don’t like Obamacare. It’s too expensive. And, being named “affordable care act” is a joke, because it’s anything but affordable.

I tried for hours to find a health insurance plan on the gov site for less then $500/month and COULD NOT DO IT. I’m a 28 year old healthy male. No reason I should be paying that much. I never even go to the doctors. They are counting on the healthy to pay for the old and unhealthy. Nope, not me.. not falling for it. I’d rather just take the $100 penalty.

Why can’t it be more like auto insurance? Private market.. easy to get quotes. I can go online and get a $25/month auto quote from an independent site like Insurance Panda, but when it comes to health insurance, I use the government’s SCAM website and have to pay out the eyeballs. WOW

Employer health care should be like auto insurance where your premiums are based on risk. I’m tired of paying the same price as some overweight smoker who is pre-diabetic just because the employer offers medical insurance.

March 28 2014 at 5:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dijeqarawy's comment
Gunny

I am old and unhealthy. And ex smoker. And I dont blame you a bit. In fact, I applaud you. I tell my youngin's the same thing. I am pretty fortunate. I'm a retired Marine after serving 22 years. And I have damn good insurance thru the military. Now next year I'll have to apply for Medicare. But I get a discount on that, because the VA pays half the premium. Good luck with your health, and for Gods sake. DON'T SMOKE. lol

March 29 2014 at 3:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Anthony

President Bush had the Law extended legally because it was so popular that millions more wanted to sign up not millions not wanting too. Not only was it successful but it also came under Budget was bipartisan and despite millions more signing up it came under budget. It is also in danger like Medicare because of the defunding of it by Obama to try and pay for his Unaffordable care act .

March 28 2014 at 2:36 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Anthony

First of all Part D medical law was extended because of the popularity was so great that many more wanted to sign up so the deadline was extended legally and not by edict and not only was it successful but came under budget because it was made to compete medical companies with each other unlike this mandate from Obama which Reid changed the voting law to 51 instead of 60 when Brown won Kennedy's seat in a completely partisan vote and against the will of the Majority . This is a Tyranny when Obama can change the law without Congress and what Dictators do he is not the King we got rid of Kings in 1776.

March 28 2014 at 2:18 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
chris1011

Medical bankruptcy is every American's God-given right, ah yup!
Mitch McConnel

March 28 2014 at 12:08 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply