(CBS)–The administration is giving consumers a few hours of leeway to sign up for health insurance that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
The official deadline to sign up for coverage that will take effect on the first of the year remains Monday, Dec. 23, but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has taken steps to ensure that heavy traffic to HealthCare.gov or other technical glitches don’t delay people from signing up for insurance. Even if people don’t finish enrolling until Dec. 24, they will still be able to get coverage in time for 2014.
“The deadline for signing up for coverage to start January 1 is today. We recognize that many have chosen to make their final decisions on today’s deadline and we are committed to making sure they can do so. 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,” said Julie Bataille, director of CMS’ Office of Communications, in a statement.
But she warned that consumers should not procrastinate on signing up. “You should not wait until tomorrow. If you are aiming to get coverage January 1, you should try to sign up today,” Bataille said.
President Obama was among the Americans who waited until the deadline was near to sign up for a bronze health plan through the D.C. exchange, a White House official said Monday. The official noted it was symbolic, because Mr. Obama’s health care will be provided by the military, but that he was “pleased to participate in a plan as a show of support for these marketplaces which are providing quality, affordable health care options to more than a million people.”
The administration’s move might have gone unnoticed were it not for a Washington Post
It’s just the latest in a series of small tweaks designed boost enrollment numbers and make the signup process easier on consumers, many of whom were frustrated by technical glitches that made HealthCare.gov nearly impossible to use for several weeks after it launched on Oct. 1.
First, the administration extended the enrollment deadline to get coverage by Jan. 1, 2014, from Dec. 15 to Dec. 23. Last week the board of the biggest trade group for insurance companies, America’s Health Insurance Plan, said consumers will have until Jan. 10 to pay their first premium, rather than Jan. 1.
Then, on Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wroteto a group of senators saying she will issue a “hardship exemption” from tax penalties for people whose plans were cancelled but were not able to purchase new insurance by the deadline.
On Friday, President Obama announced that 1 million people have enrolled for insurance so far – a huge jump from the end of November, when just 365,000 had signed up, but still far short of the administration’s initial target of 3.3 million enrollees by the end of the year.
Rebecca KaplanRebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.