The Obama administration on Wednesday insisted that they would allow consumers who tried to register for Obamacare before the deadline to complete the process but sidestepped questions about how they would verify any late applications.
“We are not going to shut the door on people who were in line and could not get coverage through no fault of their own,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokeswoman Julie Bataille told reporters.
“If you are in line when the polls close, you get to vote,” she added, comparing the effort to Election Day.
Officials said that any consumers who were in line to sign up for insurance at the March 31 midnight deadline would receive help to complete the process after that time.
The administration first announced this delay to the individual mandate on Tuesday. Americans who do not have insurance after that date must pay a penalty.
Critics, though, said that the administration which is frantically trying to boost enrollment ahead of the deadline, was leaving the door open for any consumers to sign up late for Obamacare.
Pressed on what steps the administration would take to verify that late applicants had actually been trying to get insurance before the deadline, CMS officials said that consumers would just have to "attest that they were in line and unable to complete their enrollment."
Officials also did not specify how many applicants they believed would need help signing up passed the deadline.
Asked by a reporter if they were relying on an “honor system,” officials said enrollees would be filling out an "official federal application."
Bataille said she believed most people were "truthful" on such forms.
Over 5 million people have signed up for Obamacare coverage through February, but the administration is behind their goal of registering 7 million.
Figures also show that only a quarter of enrollees are young, health consumers. The administration’s target was 40 percent. Young consumers are needed to help balance older, sicker enrollees expected to flock to the exchanges and keep costs down.
CMS officials said they had seen record interest in the exchanges in recent days, with 1.2 million visits to healthcare.gov on Tuesday and half a million calls to the call center over Monday and Tuesday.
They added that they had taken steps to prepare for expected “record high consumer demand over the next few days,” anticipating a crush of late enrollments.
“We are going to help consumers who are in line at midnight,” said Bataille, insisting that the administration was prepared for the closing days of the open enrollment period.