The deadline by which one must sign up for insurance through the Obamacare exchanges in order to get coverage by January 1, 2014 was supposed to be December 23. But with high demand and technical difficulties causing delays, customers are struggling to complete the application process on time. On Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services extended the deadline by one day, announcing that anyone who began the process before midnight on Christmas Eve would be covered in the new year.
“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,” a CMS spokesperson told NBC. An official also told CNN that “This is similar concept as Election Day: if you are in line when the polls close, you still get to vote.” Customers will now have until 11:59 on December 24th to get their applications in.
When it first launched earlier in October, the online marketplace for signing up for insurance under the exchanges faced serious technical woes. Those issues forced the administration to push back its major public relations campaign to get people signed up, delaying the enrollment process that was already anticipated to be slow to start. Experts predicted that, if Massachusetts’s health law was any indication, enrollment would be slow at the beginning and gain steam as the deadline neared.
One day out from the cutoff date for January 1 coverage, this seems to be the case. The administration reported that December 23 has been a record day for HealthCare.gov, and that over one million people visited the site over the weekend. An additional 200,000 called in to call centers.
On Friday, President Obama announced that 500,000 people had enrolled in private insurance plans through the exchanges in the month of December alone, and that the total number who’d gotten insurance through the marketplace was over one million. To accommodate the large number of customers bumping up against the deadline, the health insurance trade association is also asking insurers to extend the deadline on payment for health plans purchased under the exchanges to January 10.