Consumers who have had difficulty enrolling in a health insurance plan through healthcare.gov or through federal call centers will be given extra time to sign up beyond the March 31 open enrollment deadline, according to the Obama administration.
The leeway applies only to those trying to enroll through the federal health insurance exchange, which operates in 27 states. Several other states, including Maryland, Minnesota, and Nevada, also have offered relief to consumers having trouble signing up through those states’ exchanges.
"We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment – either online or over the phone," said Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the Health and Human Services (HHS) department.
The agency has not yet issued guidance on how to get help finishing up the enrollment process or how long the extension would last.
For everyone else, open enrollment ends March 31.
"Like clockwork, another day, another delay," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said in a statement. He also noted that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the committee in December that there would be no more delays, and that "2 weeks ago an HHS official insisted that the administration did not have ‘statutory authority’ to extend the enrollment period for this year; yet here we are."
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) said in a statement that they are going to press the administration on just how many individuals have paid for their insurance coverage so far – information that HHS says it does not have.
"We have recently obtained information that suggests your most recent testimony before the Ways and Means Committee was at best evasive and perhaps misleading," they wrote in a letter to Ms. Sebelius. They note that the committee has obtained evidence that insurers are indeed submitting payment data to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
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