The Obama administration is, once again, extending a transitional Affordable Care Act program for the sickest Americans with pre-existing conditions in order to give them more time to sign up for new policies under Obamacare, officials announced on Tuesday.
The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) is a $5 billion bridge program that provides insurance to the sickest, costliest-to-cover Americans through state-based “high risk pools.” It covered over 130,000 people at one point and was slated to expire at the beginning of the year.
But as persistent problems with Obamacare’s online marketplaces stymied enrollment efforts and led some to worry the technical glitches could leave medically-needy PCIP enrollees in a coverage gap, the White House announced in December that it will extend the program through the end of January. The new extension announced Tuesday will give the approximately 30,000 Americans still enrolled in the program until March 15 to sign up for new plans under the Affordable Care Act.
“As part of our continuing effort to help smooth consumers’ transition into Marketplace coverage, we are allowing those covered by PCIP additional time to shop for new coverage while they receive the ongoing care and treatment they need,” wrote Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials in a statement.
This is far from the first time the White House has extended an Obamacare deadline in an effort to ease people’s transition into new plans under the health law after its rocky rollout. HHS has encouraged insurers to extend the premium payment deadline for people who gained coverage on New Year’s Day and pushed back the open enrollment period for Obamacare’s second year. The administration has also encouraged insurers to refill prescriptions under consumers’ old health plans in January.