March 26, 2014 — The Obama administration said on Tuesday that consumers who have started but cannot complete the application process on HealthCare.gov by March 31 because of technological issues will have until mid-April to do so, the Washington Post reports.
The change will apply to the three dozen states that are relying on the federal health insurance marketplace website to provide residents with new insurance coverage options under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148).
To request the enrollment extension, consumers would need to check a newly created box on the website. They will not be required to prove that they encountered difficulties while trying to complete their applications (Goldstein, Washington Post, 3/25).
Officials said the extension is meant for consumers with "complex or extenuating" circumstances that prevent them from submitting a complete application by the deadline on Monday, which would shield them from having to pay a fine with their 2014 taxes. The enrollment process is considered complete when an individual sends his or her first month's premium payment to the insurer. HHS said it is sending emails to applicants who have started enrollment forms encouraging them to complete their forms (Kennedy, USA Today, 3/26).
According to the Post, the additional enrollment time will not be restricted, allowing consumers who wait until the last minute to begin the application process.
An HHS official said the duration of the special enrollment period has not been set, adding that it will depend largely on the number of requests the department receives. The administration also has not indicated how long applicants will have during the special enrollment period to select a health plan after they have started the application process, the Post reports.
Once the special enrollment period ends, consumers seeking more time to sign up for a marketplace plan would have to make a request through one of the federally sponsored call centers, which will grant the additional time on a case-by-case basis, according to the Post (Washington Post, 3/25).
Meanwhile, several states that are operating their own health insurance marketplaces have already rolled out similar enrollment period extensions, the New York Times notes.
CMS spokesperson Aaron Albright said, "We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment, either online or over the phone" (Pear, New York Times, 3/25).