The Obama administration has extended the March 31 enrollment deadline for those that began, but could not complete, an application for health insurance at the Healthcare.gov website, according to a the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) HealthDay News published March 26. The Washington Post reports that to get additional time, applicants need only check a box on the Healthcare.gov website to indicate they tried to enroll in a health plan prior to the deadline.
Visits to the Healthcare.govwebsite have surged as the open enrollment period draws to a close. Concerns that a last-minute rush to purchase health insurance would bog down the exchange website prompted the administration to offer this grace period. As of March 17, five million have enrolled in a health plan, about two million short of the government’s goal for the first enrollment period.
The administration is not characterizing this move as an extension. Press Secretary Jay Carney, during a March 21 press briefing, indicated the administration would allow people that began the process to complete their applications. White House Communications Advisor Tara McGuinness, in a Twitter post, compares this extra time to allowing people in line on Election Day to cast a vote after the polls have closed.
This extension applies only to the exchanges operated by the federal government, although state-based exchanges may opt to extend their enrollment period as well.
After March 31, those wishing to purchase health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace must wait until open enrollment reopens Nov. 15.