Obamacare Gets an Unannounced, Last Minute Extension for Christmas

The Obama administration has extended the deadline for enrollment from Monday at midnight to Christmas Eve at midnight. There was no public announcement of the change.

According to the Washington Post, which published the news Monday, CMS declined to comment on the reason for the last-minute change. The Post quotes people familiar with it who say it was a software change which can not be overridden by insurers. Many of the previous changes, including a hardship exception announced last week for those who lost insurance, were made by the administration without consulting the industry.

One month ago the administration moved the deadline for enrollment from December 15th to December 23rd, giving consumers an extra week to sign up. That shift gave the administration more time to make up for the broken website in October. It also meant insurers would have just one week in which to receive all of those applications, verify the data, and handle payment issues. The new extension means the last minute flood of enrollments will end Christmas morning.

Looking at it from the consumer side, that meant late enrollees would only have a week to get their first premium payment in, including Christmas and a weekend, i.e. two days with no mail service. In light of this challenge, the administration strongly urged insurers to give consumers an additional week to pay their first premiums. Last week AHIP announced its board had voted to “voluntarily” extend the payment deadline until January 10th.

The Post story also reveals that 890,000 people have enrolled via the federal system as of Sunday. Last Friday the President suggested during a press conference that number was about 500,000. Even if the administration hits a million by Tuesday night, they will still be well short of the 3.3 million they predicted would enroll by the end of the month. Just how short they come will depend on final enrollment numbers from the states.