With the rollout of President Obama's health care law plagued by technological problems, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced on Friday that the administration is extending the date for individuals to enroll in health care plans.
As things stood prior to the announcement, individuals who wanted to be covered by Jan. 1 had to pick a plan by Dec. 15. That date has now been pushed back to Dec. 23, CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille announced on a conference call.
The CMS technology team and outside contractors have been racing to make fixes to the Healthcare.gov federal insurance exchange website and its related systems to meet the goal of it working smoothly for a “vast majority of users” by Nov. 30.
A reason for the urgency was that they wanted the website to be able to handle the expected post-Thanksgiving surge of individuals attempting to sign up for coverage by the end of the year.
Delaying the deadline would give the administration a bit more breathing room.
Jeff Zients, the former acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget who was brought in to oversee the tech fixes, insisted on the call that the team was still “on track” to meet its Nov. 30 goal.
UPDATE: Asked via email whether this change complicates matters for insurers, Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for the insurance industry group America's Health Insurance Plans, responded: "It makes it more challenging to process enrollments in time for coverage to begin on January 1. Ultimately it will depend on how many people enroll in those last few days. It is also important to keep in mind that consumers need to pay their first month’s premium before their coverage can begin."