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Friday, October 21, 2016

by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica.

You aren’t alone if you’re confused about the deadline to sign up for coverage on the health insurance marketplaces. The deadline is — and has been — in flux.

When the process began in October, consumers using, the federal marketplace for 36 states, had until Dec. 15 to pick a plan if they wanted coverage that begins Jan. 1. But because of the well-publicized glitches with the website, federal officials last month extended that deadline until Dec. 23.

Then, last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sought to delay another key deadline, the date by which consumers have to pay their first month’s premium. As it stood, payments had to be received before coverage began (so, by Dec. 31), but HHS asked insurers to be flexible.

On Wednesday, health insurance companies obliged, extending the payment deadline to Jan. 10 instead of Jan. 1.

So where does this leave folks? It’s still not totally clear.

HHS hinted last week that the enrollment deadline was still not set in stone. “We will consider moving this deadline to a later date should exceptional circumstances pose barriers to consumers enrolling on or before December 23.” The department’s fact sheet did not define “exceptional circumstances.”

The confusion only builds. The federal government sets enrollment deadlines for the 36 states for which it handles signups; the 14 state-based insurance marketplaces set their own deadlines. Read these paragraphs from a story by Jeffrey Young at The Huffington Post:

The final date to choose a health plan that will be in place on Jan. 1 is Dec. 23 in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Marylanders and Oregonians have until Dec. 27, although Oregon residents had only until Dec. 4 to file paper applications with the state exchange because online enrollment remains unavailable.

The deadline to pay January premiums is now Jan. 10 in the 36 states served by the federal exchanges and in Colorado and New York. Users of the exchanges in Massachusetts, Minnesota and Nevada have to pay by Dec. 23. The due date is Jan. 1 for Kentuckians, Jan. 6 for Rhode Islanders, Jan. 7 for Vermonters and Jan. 15 for Marylanders. In the District of Columbia, Aetna customers have until Jan. 8, while CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Kaiser Permanente enrollees can pay up until Jan. 15. Hawaii and Oregon are still determining their respective payment deadlines.

Here’s an excerpt from Wednesday’s Seattle Times about Washington’s deadlines:

Washington residents who have started but not finished their applications for insurance through the state’s new health care exchange are getting a deadline reprieve, state officials announced Wednesday.

Anyone who begins an application before the previous deadline of Dec. 23, will get as much help as they need to finish and won’t face a real deadline until Jan. 15, said Michael Marchand, spokesman for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

“The most important thing I want people to do is to take the action to get that application started. We can work with them at that point,” Marchand said Wednesday.

All of those dates could still change, so if you are in need of coverage, it’s best to ask questions early and often.

“There is massive confusion around deadlines,” Mike Perry, co-founder of research firm PerryUndem, recently told The Washington Post. He has traveled the country doing focus groups with uninsured Americans this past month. “March comes up. January is prominent. But nobody seems to know the deadlines,” Perry said.

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  • 4sanity4all

    I am glad that they have extended the deadline. The web site in IL is very messed up, and it took me until two days ago to enroll in a medical plan. And it took a combination of me going onto the web site every day, and phoning a navigator, who was able to check things on his computer. After many phone calls and sessions on the computer, I am signed up. And the insurance company told me that I will have coverage on Jan. 1, even if they get the paper bill to me and receive my payment after Jan. 1. They are being very flexible to get this done. As long as I am paid up by a date in late January, they will accept a first payment later than the date of coverage. Although it looks like I will get my bill and be paid up by Jan. 1, it is a relief to know that everyone is trying to get this done in the kindest possible way.

  • sigrid28

    If complicated scheduling and flexible deadlines are a good reason to shut a system down, we’ll have to shut down every colleges and bus line in the country–maybe every airline! A huge system running on individuals and groups signing up, paying, using, then possibly signing up again can’t be faulted for putting a beginning, middle, and an end on a product being sold. Nor can these systems keep themselves afloat by selling “tickets” without accommodating the varying needs of customers (buy at the counter or buy on the train) and carriers (schedule express trains during rush hour). Start-up conditions might suggest otherwise, but the offers insurance that might begin at any time and end at any time, and can be ordered again in the future, as circumstances change: it resembles the private health insurance system in that respect. So if Mr. Ornstein wants to have something to REALLY complain about, he should collect the myriad stories that created the need for the ACA in the first place. Millions of Americans go the college and ride busses and airplanes, handling flexible schedules just fine. After January 1st, 2014, there will be many times people will purchase health insurance for one carrier and then change to another during the next enrollment period, like college sophomores changing majors. That flexibility is built into ALL insurance instruments and those sold on the ACA marketplace are no different.

  • elw

    When President Bush implemented his drug program they were extending deadlines for months; it is called a tweak. and commonly done in most new private and public adventures. Not a big deal, because “sh.. happens” and when it does you need to adjust. It happen just as often in the private sector as it does in the Government sector.

  • Bruno’s Beach

    Obama’s delusions are dangerous.