President Obama and many of his allies have been working overtime lately, reminding consumers that the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period ends on March 31, now just five days away. Knowing how common it is for people to wait until the last minute, the White House has been pushing aggressively to get the word out about the deadline.
But as of last night, there’s some newfound flexibility in that deadline for some consumers.
The Obama administration has decided to give extra time to Americans who say that they are unable to enroll in health 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 is hardly shocking; we saw similar flexibility in December for consumers hoping to sign up for coverage that would start on Jan. 1. The administration has frequently compared this to those who are still in line to vote when technically the voting period has ended – if you’ve made a good-faith effort to show up, you won’t be turned away.
The same is true here. If you say you tried to enroll before the deadline but had trouble, you can still sign up without penalty.
How will the administration know whether or not you really had trouble? It won’t – this will rely on the honor system. The administration is simply prepared to take consumers’ word for it.
It seems quite likely Republicans will cry foul, again, but under circumstances like these, they’d be better off keeping their complaints to themselves.
For one thing, the Bush/Cheney administration unilaterally moved deadlines around when implementing Medicare Part D, and at the time, GOP lawmakers didn’t say a word.
But more important, though, is the reason behind the flexibility on the deadline: the Obama administration wants to make it easier for more Americans to get health insurance. That’s it. That’s the whole point.
To express outrage over a couple of extra weeks of enrollment is to effectively argue against consumer access to health coverage. The right might want to dial down the Outrage Machine on this one.