Merry Christmas Eve everyone!
At midnight Monday, the official deadline arrives for Americans to sign up through the new federal health insurance exchange for health plans that begin Jan. 1. But, without any public announcement, Obama administration officials have changed the rules so that people will have an extra day to enroll, according to two individuals with knowledge of the switch.
Over the weekend, government officials and outside IT contractors working on the online marketplace’s computer system made a software change that automatically gives people a Jan. 1 start date for their coverage as long as they enroll by 11:59 p.m. Christmas Eve.
Especially for insurance companies.
The switch is the most recent rule change — some by government officials, and at least one by the insurance industry — as a milestone approaches for what has been a tumultuous three-month start of the long-awaited opportunity for Americans to buy new health plans under a 2010 law intended to reshape the nation’s health-care system.
One individual familiar with the unannounced extension said that it is, in part, intended as a buffer in case the Web site has trouble if a last-minute surge of insurance-seekers proved more than the computer system could handle.
According to the two individuals, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity about a matter that is not public, the one-day extension is automatic, built into the software, and cannot be overridden by individual insurers if they object.
Asked to explain the reason for the extension — and why it has been kept secret — officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency overseeing the health exchange, did not immediately respond.
On Monday morning, one insurance industry official, informed by The Washington Post about the quiet deadline extension, criticized the move. “Making yet another last-minute change to the rules by shortening an already-tight time period in which to process enrollments makes it even harder to ensure people who have selected a plan are able to have their coverage begin in January,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the change has not been made public.
Part of me wants to feel bad for insurance companies. The other part recalls they made a pact with the devil (not I don’t mean that literally), and will pay the price. But of course, we will have to bail them out when they go bankrupt. Or we will need a public option. But that is a feature, not a bug of Obamacare.