Since they’ve been ignoring the law, why not let average Americans do the same thing?
The Obama administration has decided to give extra time to Americans who say that they are unable to enroll in health-care plans through the federal insurance marketplace by the March 31 deadline.
Federal officials confirmed Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension.
Under the new rules, people will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on HealthCare.gov to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. This method will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth.
The rules, which will apply to the federal exchanges operating in three dozen states, will essentially create a large loophole even as White House officials have repeatedly said that the March 31 deadline was firm. The extra time will not technically alter the deadline but will create a broad new category of people eligible for what’s known as a special enrollment period.
The change, which the administration is scheduled to announce Wednesday, is supported by consumer advocates who want as many people as possible to gain insurance under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. But it’s likely to be criticized by Republicans who oppose the law and have denounced the way the administration is implementing it.
Administration officials said the accommodation is an attempt to prepare for a possible surge of people trying to sign up in the final days before the deadline. Such a flood could leave some people unable to get through the system.
On March 12th Sebelius testified before Congress that there would be no more delays to the deadline:
Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said Wednesday that the Obama administration would not extend the deadline for people to sign up for health insurance or delay the requirement for most Americans to have coverage.
And she declined to say whether the administration was still committed to its original goal of enrolling seven million people in private coverage through federal and state exchanges by March 31.
Testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee, Ms. Sebelius said categorically that the administration would not delay the “individual mandate,” under which most Americans must have insurance or pay a tax penalty. In addition, she said that officials would not extend the six-month open enrollment period, scheduled to end on March 31.