The roll-out of health care reform under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — more commonly known as ObamaCare — has seen several deadline shifts since the HealthCare.gov website opened on October 1st, 2013. Now, in order to ensure as many Americans as possible have health care coverage, the Obama Administration plans to extend the deadline to apply for insurance via the federal Marketplace. State-operated marketplaces are free to adopt this extension if they wish.
This new deadline will only be extended to individuals who had previously attempted to apply for coverage before the March 31st, 2014 deadline, yet were still unable to complete their application. If these consumers pay their first month’s premium by the deadline set by their chosen insurance company, their health insurance should be effective May 1st, 2014. In addition, these consumers may apply for a hardship exemption to avoid the individual mandate tax penalty for months before their coverage became effective.
Reasoning for the 2014 ObamaCare Deadline Extension
Consumer advocates have requested an extension to give Americans more time to complete applications without worrying about any potential problems with the site. On March 24th, the federal HealthCare.gov website received more than 1 million visitors, making it the second-highest day of traffic the site has seen to-date.
This record amount of traffic echoes the late-December flood of traffic to the federal Marketplace website as the December 24th enrollment deadline for coverage beginning January 1st loomed. Advocates are concerned that Americans may be blocked from enrolling in a health care plan in the event that the site is unable to accommodate such a large numbers of visitors.
Who Qualifies for the Extension?
Consumers must self-attest to having started their application before the March 31st deadline, but were unable to complete their enrollment through no fault of their own.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney noted that, “As was the case for the December deadline, we’re going to want to make sure that people who are already in line can finish their enrollment.”
Carney’s sentiment is similar to that of Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman, Joanne Peters, who pointed out that “We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment.”
Those who attempted to apply prior to the March 31st deadline will be granted an extension in good faith on the basis of an “honor system.” The ultimate goal of the extension is to ensure that the majority of Americans who want to enroll in a health care plan can actually obtain coverage. Consumers should make every effort to complete enrollment by March 31st, 2014, either online at HealthCare.gov, by calling 1-800-318-3596, or by completing a paper application or by working with an in-person assister. However, if high web traffic, high call volume, or other factors outside the consumer’s control prevent enrollment completion, this extension ensures that those “in line” will have the opportunity to obtain health insurance this year.