The Obamacare enrollment deadline has been extended for what amounts to a six-week grace period to buy health insurance, the federal government has announced.
Lawmakers have been calling for an extension in the open-enrollment period in the Affordable Care Act for up to year in part because of ongoing glitches and bugs in the healthcare.gov insurance portal.
The Obama administration indicated today that it would extend the deadline before the IRS penalty kicks in. “Under the latest policy change, people who sign up by the end of open enrollment season on March 31 will not face a penalty. That means procrastinators get a grace period. Previously you had to sign up by the middle of February, guaranteeing that your coverage would take effect March 1, in order to avoid fines for being uninsured.”
The new deadline is March 31. “The one-time extension will apply to 2014 only, and is being framed by the administration as a resolution to an existing ‘disconnect,’ rather than as an extension,” the Atlantic Wire reports.
The announcement — which in bureaucratic language referred to the extension as a hardship exemption — appeared today in a FAQ on the US Department of Health & Human Services website. The government also uses the terminology “shared responsibility payment” to describe the new IRS tax that will be imposed on individuals who don’t sign up for health insurance.
The additional sign-up time apparently did not come as a surprise to Beltway observers, according to AP. “Monday’s move had been expected since White House spokesman Jay Carney promised quick action last week to resolve a ‘disconnect’ in the implementation of the law. Technical problems continue to trouble the website that’s supposed to be the main enrollment vehicle for people who don’t get health care at work.”
Over the weekend,Saturday Night Live lampooned HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the botched healthcare.gov rollout:
In remarkably convoluted language: ObamaCare says you won't face a penalty if you buy insurance by March 31st deadline.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) October 28, 2013
The ObamaCare police don't care for the word extension – though previously you had to buy insurance by Feb 15 to avoid penalty.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) October 29, 2013