The White House announced on Monday that it has extended the deadline for signing up for health insurance under Obamacare by one day, allowing people who want coverage by Jan. 1st to shop for coverage plans until Christmas Eve.
The original deadline for coverage to start Jan. 1 was midnight Monday, but the Obama administration expected more people needed additional time to register for plans.
"Anticipating high demand and the fact that consumers may be enrolling from multiple time zones, we have taken steps to make sure that those who select a plan through tomorrow will get coverage for Jan 1," Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokeswoman Julie Bataille said in a statement released Monday.
An administration official added, “We have programmed our systems to support January 1 coverage for those who attempt to complete their enrollment through the end of the day tomorrow proactively recognizing that we need to be prepared to handle heavy online traffic or other technical issues.”
In a year-end news conference Friday, President Obama said over a million people have signed up for health insurance in the federal and state exchanges. "Millions of Americans, despite problems with the website, are not poised to be covered by quality affordable insurance come New Years Day," the president said.
The administration compared the deadline's extension to Election Day, which allows people in line to vote after the polls close. But the administration advised people against signing up at the very last minute, especially with persisting technical poblems with the federal enrollemtn website, healthcare.gov.
Recognizing that users may encounter problems with the website, the administraion is allowing a "hardship" exception for consumers who are unable to sign up for an insurance plan online.
"We'll have a special enrollment period for all those who make a good faith effort to get enrolled by the deadline," but are unable to do so, according to an administration official who announced the grace period last week.
Obama enrolled in a bronze health care plan over through the D.C. marketplace over the weekend. While the president's health care will continue to be provided by the military, Obama was "pleased to participate in a plan as a show of support for these marketplaces which are providing quality, affordable health care options"
"As you all know, the President is one of the 85 percent of Americans who gets his health insurance through his employer and, like previous Presidents, is privileged to receive health care from the military," a statement from a White House official said. "The act of the President signing up for insurance coverage through the D.C. exchange is symbolic since the President's health care will continue to be provided by the military."