The Obama administration will give consumers who claim they were unable to sign up for Obamacare extra time to select a health plan, essentially extending the March 31 deadline for some individuals to obtain insurance or pay a fine.
“Open enrollment ends March 31. We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment -- either online or over the phone," said Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the Washington Post, individuals will simply have to check a blue box on healthcare.gov that says they tried to enroll before the March 31 deadline. The extension will last until mid-April, the newspaper reported.
The White House has long insisted that the March 31 deadline was non-negotiable but hinted that it might grant a grace period to those who had trouble signing up for Obamacare.
The administration will not actually check whether individuals encountered technical problems, the Post reported.
Republicans swiftly dismissed the latest shift as yet another attempt by the administration to limit political blowback from the president’s signature domestic achievement.
"Democrats in leadership may say they are doubling down on Obamacare but you have to wonder how many more unilateral delays their candidates running in 2014 can withstand," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
The Obama administration announced last week that 5 million people had signed up for Obamacare. Officials are predicting a surge in enrollment in the last few days before March 31 but still remain off the pace needed to meet the administration’s initial target of signing up seven million people.
The White House has delayed a number of central provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including the employer mandate and a cap on out-of-pocket medical costs, stoking charges that Obama has flouted his constitutional authority.