The Obama administration on Tuesday said that some consumers who failed to complete their enrollment in new insurance exchanges by a key deadline could be given extra time to ensure they received coverage.
“We know many of you have been working hard to finish enrolling in a health plan in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Even though we have passed the December 23 enrollment deadline for coverage starting January 1, we don't want you to miss out if you've been trying to enroll,” said the administration in a message on the healthcare.gov website.
The note said that those who had experienced difficulties with the website could receive more time and assistance to complete their enrollment.
“Sometimes despite your best efforts, you might have run into delays caused by heavy traffic to healthcare.gov, maintenance periods, or other issues with our systems that prevented you from finishing the process on time,” the administration added. “If this happened to you, don’t worry — we still may be able to help you get covered as soon as January 1.”
The move is the latest in a number of delays and revised rulings as the administration pushes to boost enrollment after the botched rollout of the healthcare.gov website.
Dec. 24 was supposed to mark the last day to enroll for consumers to receive coverage at the start of 2014, after two prior delays.
The original deadline was Dec. 15, but that was extended to Dec. 23. The administration then secretly extended the deadline again on Monday through Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, to give consumers additional time. That extension was not announced by the White House and was first reported by the Washington Post.
The healthcare.gov website was launched in October with numerous technical issues which prevented many consumers from enrolling, weakened support for the health care law and brought President Obama to the lowest approval ratings of his tenure.
The administration put in place a “tech surge” to repair the site and an aggressive campaign to boost enrollment numbers before the year-end deadline. Part of that effort involved pressuring insurers to give consumers additional time to make their premium payments.
In recent days the administration has cited “amazing interest” in the insurance exchanges and said that the website had received 2 million visitors on Monday.
“Our highest priority is making sure that everyone who wants to enroll to have health care coverage by January 1 is able to do so, particularly since consumers had a hard time accessing HealthCare.gov in October and November,” said Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokeswoman Julie Bataille in a statement on Tuesday.
Critics though say that the repeated delays and Obama’s broken promise that current insurance plans wouldn’t be affected by the law’s new regulations show the health reforms are unworkable and unpopular.
The administration still faces a tough road to enrolling its target of 7 million consumers by the end of March.
Insurers also warn that persistent back-end problems with the health insurance website could delay many consumers from receiving coverage on time.