Topics: Obamacare

White House resisting pressure from vulnerable Democrats for delay in Obamacare mandate but will tweak deadline

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Obamacare,Democratic Party,New Hampshire,PennAve

The White House is under pressure from vulnerable Democratic lawmakers to delay the Obamacare deadline for people to sign up for health insurance.

The Obama administration has no immediate plans to extend the deadline, contrary to some news reports, according to Democratic sources.

"Press reports that the administration is planning to delay the individual mandate are not true," a Democratic aide told the Washington Examiner late Wednesday.

Democrats noted that people have until March 31, 2014 to sign up for insurance and avoid a penalty.

The Obama Administration will move to make a change in the law so that those who sign up after mid-February won't be penalized. The way the law works now, enrolees must sign up by Feb. 15 in oder to ensure they are covered by the March 31 deadline.

"Because open enrollment doesn’t end until March 31, 2014, the Administration is seeking to close the gap between February 15 and March 31 so that anyone who signs up by the end of March does not face the penalty. This is simply conforming dates. This is not a delay in the individual mandate," the Democratic aide said.

Lawmakers are pressing to extend the deadline beyond March 31 after the troubled roll out of Obamacare raised concerns that people might not be able to sign up in time to avoid the $95 fine that jumps to $695 by 2016.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who faces re-election next year, wrote to President Obama, noting the glitch-plagued roll out that began Oct. 1 and asked him to extend the deadline beyond March 31.

"The difficulty that people in New Hampshire and in other states that are relying on the federally facilitated marketplaces are experiencing is incredibly frustrating and disappointing," Shaheen wrote. "For over three years, we have been waiting for the creation of the health insurance exchanges, which now in their fourth week of existence, are riddled with problems."

Backing Shaheen are Sens. Mark Begich, D-Ala., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., two more more vulnerable Democrats from red states facing competitive re-election bids next year.

Pryor, considered the most vulnerable Democratic Senator, said in a statement that "it makes sense" to extend the deadline and that the Obama administration "should state clearly how the enforcement mechanism will work if people can’t sign up in time."

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who is not up for re-election but whose state is more purple than blue, said he and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., would introduce legislation to delay the health care law's individual mandate by a year.

House Democrats have been relatively quiet on the issue, most likely because their base of vulnerable moderates has been whittled down in the past two elections to only a few lawmakers.

One lawmaker facing a tough re-election bid next year, Rep. John Barrow, of Georgia, took to the House floor to call for a delay, saying his constituents "are being forced to buy something that is just not ready."

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is among the safest incumbents, brushed off calls for a delay although she acknowledged the roll out of the law has been plagued with problems.

"I don't support that," Pelosi said, when asked Wednesday about Shaheen's request. "I think we should try to fix what we have, move forward with the deadline we have."

This story was first published at 10:29 p.m. and has been updated.

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